Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) are surface-to-air missiles that can be carried and fired by a single individual or carried by several individuals and fired by more than one person acting as a crew. MANPADS were designed to be used by national military forces to protect their troops and facilities. With their relatively short range, MANPADS are regarded as the last missile-based air defense available to protect against aerial attack, to be deployed in tandem with gun-type systems that seek to defeat attacking aircraft by destroying them with a barrage of projectiles.
MANPADS, also known as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles poses a serious threat to passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, and military aircraft around the world. Their availability, ease of use, small size, portability and fire and forget weapon characteristics, all add to the appeal of these weapons to terrorist groups. With an altitude range of 10,000 to 15,000 feet they would make airliners especially vulnerable during take-off and landing. Since 1975, 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS, causing about 28 crashes and more than 800 deaths around the world.
By some estimates there are likely over half a million MANPADS worldwide. Certain portions of those weapons are widely available and obtainable on the black market. Countering the proliferation of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) is a top U.S. national security priority. The United States is working closely with numerous countries and international organizations to keep the skies safe for all.
Most MANPADS also known as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles consist of: 1) a missile packaged in a tube; 2) a launching mechanism (commonly known as a “gripstock”); and 3) a battery. The tubes, which protect the missile until it has been fired, are disposable. Rudimentary sights are mounted on the tube. A single-use battery is typically used to power the missile prior to launch. The missile itself is comprised of three main sections: guidance, warhead, and propulsion.
MANPADS launch tubes typically range from about 4 feet to 6 1/2 feet (1.2 to 2 meters) in length and are about 3 inches (72 millimeters) in diameter. Their weight, with launcher, varies from about 28 pounds to just over 55 pounds (13 to 25 kilograms). They are easy to transport and conceal. Some of the most commonly proliferated MANPADS can easily fit into the trunk of an automobile.
Because MANPADS are easy to transport, conceal, and use – and because a single successful attack against an airliner would have serious consequences for the international civilian aviation industry – they are particularly attractive weapons to terrorists and criminals.
MANPADS are different from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) which are also portable and shoulder-fired. However, RPGs are unguided weapons designed primarily to be used against ground targets and are generally ineffective against aircraft, except at very close range. Some RPG attacks on low-flying aircraft have been mistaken for MANPADS attacks.
TYPES OF MANPADS
There are three main types of MANPADS: 1) Infrared (IR) systems that hone in on an aircraft’s heat source, usually the engine or the engine’s exhaust plume; 2) Command Line-of-Sight (CLOS) systems whereby the MANPADS operator visually acquires the target aircraft using a magnified optical sight, and then uses radio controls to guide the missile into the aircraft; and 3) Laser Beam Riders in which the missile flies along the laser beam and strikes the aircraft where the operator has aimed the laser
Depending on model and variant, MANPADS IR missiles have a range of 500 meters (546 yards) to 8km (5 miles), and can reach an altitude of 16,000 feet (4,876m). They can attain a speed of about twice the speed of sound and strike aircraft flying) at a range of up to 3.2 miles (5 kilometers). Most of the older systems are ineffective against modern military aircraft, though civilian aircraft remain vulnerable due to the lack of countermeasures.
Many newer MANPADS now employ advanced microprocessors for improved tracking ability, and improved infrared counter countermeasures (IRCCM) capability. Threats are also evolving to incorporate imaging technology – visible energy – to ‘look’ for aircraft.
Russia’s KBM details Verba MANPAD
Russia’s Engineering Design Bureau (KBM), a subsidiary of Rostec’s High-Precision Systems, has detailed its newest 9K333 Verba (Willow) man-portable air-defence (MANPAD) system. According to a company spokesperson, the Verba can engage fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and “new types of threats” such as unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles. “The 9K333 can effectively engage aerial targets with low infrared signature. The system can be coupled to an external identification friend or foe [IFF] interrogator,” the spokesperson said.
The Verba’s containerised 9M336 surface-to-air missile (SAM) can be integrated into ground- and sea-based short-range air-defence (SHORAD) systems. “The SAM can also be used by air platforms,” the spokesperson added. The lower and higher ends of the system’s operating temperature range have been extended to -50°C and 50°C, respectively.
The MANPAD system weighs 17.25 kg in combat configuration and is armed with the 9M336 72 mm SAM that carries a 2.5 kg high-explosive fragmentation warhead with a dual fuze and a passive three-channel tracking seeker. The Verba features a combat readiness time of no more than 12 seconds and is operated by a single soldier.
The Verba can engage an aerial target flying at an altitude between 10 m and 3,500 m, at a distance between 500 m and 6,000 m, and at a speed of up to 320 m/s (pursuit engagement) or 400 m/s (head-on engagement), the spokesperson said. The 9K333 Verba has retained some capabilities of the previous 9K338 Igla-S ‘SA-24 Grinch’ MANPAD system, including a ‘fire-and-forget’ mode, low signature, and the capability to counter jammers.
New Chinese-built MANPADS has entered service with Turkmenistan Army
The authoritative military publication, the Army Recognition reported that Turkmenistan has purchased QW-2 (Syanvey-2) man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) from China. According to the Army Recognition, the QW-2 MANPADS was presented during a visit of the Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to the military border unit of Turkmenistan.
It is a third generation man-portable shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (SAM) developed in China by CASIC (China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation) for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and export customers. The QW-2 design has some resemblance with the Russian 9K310/SA-16 Gimlet portable SAM system which was the basis for its predecessor the QW-1 SAM system.
According to military experts, the design of the QW-2 seems similar to Russian-made 9K310/SA-16 Gimlet MANPADS. The QW-2 uses a fire and forget missile featuring a cooled two color infrared seeker and a single-stage solid rocket and can be operated by crew of two soldiers. The QW-2 missile can engage aerial targets at ranges from 500 meters to 6 kilometers flying at altitudes between 10 meters and 3,500 meters. The QW-2 can also be mounted on combat vehicle including a target acquisition radar and an electro-optical fire control system fitted on the carrier vehicle.
According to the SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) arms trade database, Turkmenistan has already purchase other air defense combat equipment from China including the FM-90 a mobile Short-range air defense missile system, HQ-9 SAM medium to long-range surface-to-air defense missile systems, and KS-1A medium-range mobile air defense missile systems.
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