Last update December 31, 2003
By Jack Urso for Military Information Services.
Man portable surface-to-air missile attacks against US military and civilian aircraft are on the rise as Saddam loyalists continue to resist the US occupation. In November 2003 there were several attacks on US and civilian aircraft by shoulder-fired SAMs (Surface-to-Air-Missiles, see Incidents, below).
So far as protecting assets, the Pentagon ordered four USAF C-130s to be fitted with an anti-MANPAD (MAN Portable Air Defense) system at a total cost US$27 million. The fully automated system is based on a upgraded Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCAM) An/AAQ-24V system, which is used on USAF transports as well as Air Force One. Cost per unit is currently over US$5 million, however, the price will likely be lowered to US$2-$3 million per system should demand increase.
In other attempts to reduce the number of SAMs "on the street" in Iraq, the US government has offered Iraqi civilians a $500 bounty for each shoulder-fired SAM system turned in. This has resulted in over 300 missiles being handed in since May 1, 2003. Despite large caches of weapons being discovered by US forces, there may be 5,000 to 7,000 unaccounted SAMs in Iraq, mostly SA-7s, according to military officials.
The attack on an Israeli Arkia Boeing 757 passenger jet during its initial takeoff on Thursday, November 28, 2002, from Mombassa, Kenya, initially prompted this look into the capabilities of MANPAD systems as an effective terrorist weapon.
At the time of the attack on the Arkia Boeing, Israeli intelligence had reported that portable SA-7 Grail anti-air missiles were most likely involved in the Kenya attack due to the fact that they have heat-seeking (Infrared-seeking) warheads, as do the Stinger and SA-18, "and therefore unlikely to miss" [a target]. (1) However in this case both missiles missed the intended target.
(Editor's note: SA-7 missile launch units abandoned at the Kenyan launch site, photo at left, were blue in color. In western nations, weapons and munitions painted light blue signify practice weapons. Practice missiles for the SA-7 are not guided, a factor which likely resulted in the airliner not being struck.)
On May 8, 2001, the Israeli government seized a Lebanese fishing boat that was carrying a shipment of weapons destined for Palestinian militants. Included amongst the cargo were SA-7s.
(Above: SA-7 launchers found in Mambas, Kenya after attack on airliner. Photo Source: AP)
Hezbollah apparently has been able to acquire SA-7s. In a June 2001 communiqué to the Lebanese media, Hezbollah asserted SA-7s had been distributed to field units. Two SA-7s were subsequently launched at Israeli aircraft in separate incidents near Tyre on June 12, 2001. Each missile missed its target.(2)
A similar incident occurred in May 2002 when an SA-7 was launched at a US plane as it left Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia by a Sudanese National identified as Abu Huzifa, reportedly an al Qaida operative with links to its leadership.(3) In that incident the SA-7 missed its target as well. This has raised questions about the effectiveness of the weapon and the training of its users.
Variants of the SA-7 have been manufactured in China, Egypt, Pakistan, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. It is known that Al Qaida produced a videotape (obtained by CNN in Afghanistan) which included an hour-long demonstration on how to load and launch an SA-7.(4) It is speculated that SA-7s may have reached Al Qaida forces in Afghanistan via Pakistan when the latter was providing support to the Italian regime. When Al Qaida forces fled following the US air and land campaign they also took many weapons with them, including, it is thought, the easily portable, shoulder-fired SA-7. According to a Pentagon spokesman in August 2002, US forces in Afghanistan captured 5,592 MANPADS.(5)
(Right: Italian troops armed with Stinger MANPADS, Source USA Today)
Two versions of the SA-7 are known to have been produced, the SA-7A and its replacement the SA-7B. The SA-7B has greater range and a more sensitive IR seeker. Both, however, are easily susceptible to such simple countermeasures as infrared decoys, flares and "ground clutter" (heat sources close to the earth surface that can confuse some older IR seekers such as that in the SA-7), frustrating its ability to attack low-flying targets, such as the Israeli Boeing 757 in Kenya or the incident involving a US plane at a Saudi air base in May 2002, both of which were both in the process of lifting off when the attacks were attempted. Some Israeli civilian airliners have been rumored to carry such countermeasures, however, this has not been confirmed in the open press nor is there any evidence to suggest such countermeasures where used in the Mombassa incident.(6) Boeing stated shortly after the Mombassa incident that installing missile countermeasures on commercial airliners would be difficult and expensive.(7)
Iraq, December 10, 2003: A US Air Force C-17 transport aircraft was hit by a missile as it took off from Baghdad, but it landed safely with no crew injured. According to witness reports the weapon fired was a manportable surface-to-air missile.
Iraq, November 22, 2003: A DHL cargo aircraft was hit by a SA-7 missile at Baghdad International Airport. No causalities.
Iraq, November 15, 2003: Two Black Hawk helicopters crash into each other in Mosul after one was hit by a SAM. 17 American troops killed. Although the type of SAM is as yet unidentified, US troops discovered one SA-7 near Mosul on or about November 8 while six others are turned in by civilians.
Iraq, November 2, 2003: SA-7 Strela shoots down CH-46 Chinook helicopter near Fallujah.
16 American troops killed.
Kenya, November 28, 2002: SA-7 attack on a departing Israeli Arkia Boeing 757 in Mombassa Target missed.
The SA-7 was determined to be the weapon used in the Mombassa incident following the discovery of two SA-7 launchers near the airport after the attack.(8)
In other parts of the world, the US government continues efforts to contain the treat of shoulder-launched missiles, including Nicaragua and and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell went to Nicaragua in early November 2003 to lobby for the destruction of the country's MANPADS, which totals approximately 2,000 systems, including over 200 SA-7, SA-14 and SA-16 launchers. Powell told President Enrique Bolinas that the United States has long felt that Nicaragua's MANPADS should be destroyed.
Assistant Secretary for Political/Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield visited Bosnia and Herzegovina November 9-10, 2003, to observe the destruction of a stockpile of MANPADS on Monday, November 10 at 1000 at Lapov dol (near Tarcin, approximately an hour drive from Sarajevo). The number of MANPADS destroyed was unreported.
The two ruling political entities in of Bosnia and Herzegovina consist of the Bosniak/Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska (RS). The misiles destroyed in the November event belonged to the Federation. The RS had already destroyed 1077 missiles prior to the November event. Bosnia reportedly possessed approximately 5,000 MANPADS following the 1992-1995 period of conflict.
Online References and other sources:
Further background information regarding the SA-7 may be found at:
The Federation of American Scientists website (link takes you directly to the relevant page), which carries further information on its development as well as a set of pictures.
Also refer to Jane's Weapons Systems (password access may be required) for the following relevant records:
(Source: Official Web Site of the Radar and Missile Analysis Group (R&MAG))
9K32 Strela-2 - Russia
9M32 (Russian missile number)
HN-5 (Hongying 5) - China
Anza MKI - Pakistan
Ayn as Saqr - Egypt
DesignI Konstruktorskoe Bjuro Mashinostroenia (KBM), Kolomna, Russia Manufacturer: Russian state factories.
License built in: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)
Reverse engineered by: Egypt, North Korea and the People's Republic of China.
INITIAL OPERATIONAL CAPABILITY:
SA -7A: 1966
SA -7B: 1972
Length: 1.44 mSA-7 known user nations include, but are not limited to, the following: Afghanistan Algeria Angola Argentina Belarus Benin Botswana Bosnia-Herzegovina Bulgaria Burkina Faso Cambodia Cape Verde Chad China Congo Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Egypt Ethiopia Finland Georgia Ghana Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Honduras (captured inventory) Hungary India Iran Iraq (status uncertain) Jordan Kuwait Latvia Laos Lebanon Libya Lithuania Macedonia Mali Mauritania Mauritius Mongolia Morocco Mozambique Nicaragua Nigeria North Korea Oman Peru Poland Qatar Romania Russia Seychelles Sierra Leone Slovak Republic Slovenia Somalia (status uncertain) South Africa Sudan Syria Tanzania Turkmenistan Uganda Ukraine Vietnam Yemen Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) Zambia Zimbabwe
Body diameter: 72 mm
Wing span: 0.3 m
Launch weight: 10 kg
Warhead: 1.8 kg HE fragmentation
Propulsion: Solid propellant
Range: 5 km
(Source: Jane's Weapon Systems SA-7 `GRAIL' (9M32 Strela-2)
(Source: United States Naval Institute Military Database)
9K310 Igla 1
Designer: KBM Engineering Design Bureau, Kolomna
Manufacturers: Shchit Machinery Plant, Iztrievsk, Russia V.A. Degtaryev Machinery Plant, Kovrov, Russia
License-built in Bulgaria, Hungary and North Korea
INITIAL OPERATIONAL CAPABILITY: 1986
- Missile 23.8 lb (10.8 kg)
- Warhead 2.2 LB ( 1.0 kg)
- Length 5 ft 5 in (1.67 m)
- Diameter 2.8 in ( 72 mm)
- Speed 1,870 fps (570 mps) or Mach 1.7 at sea level
- Range minimum 547 yd ( 500 m) maximum 5,468 yd (5,000 m)
- Altitude minimum 33 ft ( 10 m) maximum 3,828 yd (3,500 m)
- IR-seeker with 40-deg field of view
- Single channel 3.5-5 micron infrared
USERS: Angola Belarus Botswana Bulgaria Cuba Finland Hungary Iraq Nicaragua North Korea Peru Russia Serbia/Montenegro Slovak Republic South Korea Ukraine
FLF-1 Fliegerfaust (Germany)
RB 69 (Sweden)
Bazak (Flash) (Israel)
Raytheon Missile Systems (formerly Hughes Missile Systems; formerly General Dynamics), Tucson, AZ
INITIAL OPERATIONAL CAPABILITY: 1964
Approximately 46,000 Redeyes reportedly manufactured by 1999.
- system total 29 lb. (13.2 kg)
- missile 18 lb. (8.2 kg)
- length 4 ft 0 in (1.22 m)
- diameter 2.75 in (70 mm)
- wing span 5.51 in (140 mm)
- speed Mach 1.6
- maximum range 1.7 nm (2 mi.; 3.2 km)
- maximum altitude 8,000 ft (2,438 m)
USERS:Israel Jordan Saudi Arabia Sudan Thailand Turkey
- optical sight passive IR seeker
Prime Contractor: Raytheon Missile Systems (formerly Hughes Missile Systems; formerly General Dynamics), Tucson, AZ
Prime Contractor(Europe): Daimler-Benz Aerospace (now DaimlerChrysler) (Dasa) -- Munich, Germany
INITIAL OPERATIONAL CAPABILITY: 1981
USERS:Afghanistan (Mujahadin and Italian rebels, current inventories unconfirmed) Angola UNITA anti-government forces, current inventories unconfirmed) Bahrain  Croatia Denmark France Germany Greece [1,000] Iran Israel  Italy  Japan  Kuwait Netherlands  Pakistan  Qatar Saudi Arabia  South Korea  Switzerland [2,500] Taiwan  Turkey [4,500] USA Army [N/A] Marines [1,929]
- system 34.5 LB (15.2 kg)
- missile 22.0 LB (10.0 kg) warhead 6.6 LB ( 3.0 kg)
- length 5 ft 0 in (1.52 m)
- diameter 2.75 in (70 mm)
- speed 2,445 ft/sec (745 m/sec; Mach 2.2)
- maximum range 3 mi (4.8 km)
- maximum altitude 12,464 ft (3,800 m)
- Optics Optical sight (some thermal imaging capability) proportional navigation with lead bias
- Target Adaptive Guidance (TAG)
- Stinger Basic All-aspect passive infrared homing
- Stinger RMP All-aspect passive infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) interrogator
End Notes: (links may no longer be valid)
- 1 Terrorists known to possess SAMs (CNN)
- 2 Ibid
- 3 US Wary After Kenya Missile Attack (The Guardian - UK)
- 4 Workers 'saw missile smoke' (CNN)
- 5 US jets easy target for shoulder-fired missiles (The San Francisco Chronicle)
- 6 Israeli airliners equipped with missile detectors? (Daily Times - Pakistan)
- 7 Attacks highlight dangers jets face (The Baltimore Sun)
- 8 Missile attack on jet confirms US fears (The Star-Ledger - USA)