BY BRIAN WOO
an-Portable Air Defence Systems,
or MANPADS, as they are known,
have been in the hands of both
state and non-state actors for
more than 30 years. The devices have been
deployed against civilian aircraft in more
than 40 incidents, scoring hits in more than
half of them and killing some 600 people.
Why are MANPADS so lethal and why
should a MANPADS alert be taken seri-
They are lightweight, easy to use and
simple to conceal. An individual weapon is
assembled from four main pieces in as lit-
tle time as five minutes. Anybody can learn
to use one with minimal training. Using a
combination of technologies, MANPADS are
capable of targeting many types of aircraft.
More sophisticated than rocket-propelled
grenades, they have a greater range and a
guidance system that can latch onto and
A N T I-T E R R O R I S M track aircraft.
Hundreds of thousands of MANPADs
exist, including up to a quarter of a million
older-generation SAM7s. The availability
of the weapons on the black market, both
within the OSCE area and on its borders,
is a matter of growing concern. We know
that Al-Qaida and other terrorist and crimi-
nal groups are in possession of MANPADS.
Taking aim at the They have resorted to them in the past and
will no doubt seek to do so again.
A widely held perception is that the prob-
shoulder-fired missile lem of MANPADS is relevant only to a few
countries and specific sites. But if there is
threat any predictability to the behaviour of inter-
national terrorists, it is that they will invar-
iably opt to hit a soft target over a hardened
one. Counter-terrorism experts warn that
Confronting the very real threat that shoulder-fired missiles airports in the OSCE region should consider
pose to civil aviation was the subject of an OSCE-sponsored the possibility that they could be targeted
intergovernmental conference on 23 January in Vienna. by terrorists.
Experts from Finland, France, the United Kingdom and This growing concern was what led
the United States as well as from NATO, the European the OSCE’s Action against Terrorism Unit
Community, the International Civil Aviation Organization to invite national counter-terrorism and
and the Collective Security Treaty Organization briefed airport security officials from OSCE capi-
government representatives on the measures they can take tals to Vienna to meet with international
to protect travellers and airports in the OSCE area against MANPADS and civil aviation specialists.
this deadly form of terrorist attack. The pioneering effort, made possible with
major funding from the Government of
Canada and with the co-operation of the
Montreal-based International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO), resulted in an
Shoulder-fired missiles come in three varieties: electro-optical (similar to a exchange of practical and action-oriented
camera), laser-guided and infrared (or heat-seeking). Depending on type, they can information on how to make airports in the
hit an aircraft as far away as 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) and as high as 4 kilometres OSCE region more secure in the face of the
(2.5 miles). Photo: Finnish Defence Forces MANPADS threat.
22 OSCE Magazine March 2004
The experts agreed that some basic plan- was clearly uppermost
ning and co-ordination among local secu- in everyone’s mind.
rity officials and with communities around The OSCE should
airports can be very effective in address- also encourage other
ing the threat, especially in identifying regional organiza-
areas that could be ideal launching pads. tions to support the
Solutions discussed ranged from increas- MANPADS initiative
ing public awareness to installing defensive within their spheres of
systems on airplanes. influence, whether it is
in Africa, the Middle
STOCKPILE SECURIT Y East or Southeast Asia.
Protecting airports from such contingen- The efforts of the
cies is not the only focus of MANPADS- Asia-Pacific Economic
related counter-terrorism work. Controls Co-operation Forum
over stockpiles and exports are also being (APEC) are clearly a
strengthened. In July 2003, the OSCE’s major step in the right
Forum for Security Co-operation agreed direction. At their
“to promote the application of effective meeting in Bangkok The man-portable nature of
and comprehensive export controls for in October 2003, the 21 leaders of APEC the weapons makes them
MANPADS”. The decision, endorsed by the agreed to protect international aviation by easy to conceal, such as
Ministerial Council in Maastricht, aims at committing themselves to stricter control of in a large duffle bag. The
bolstering stockpile security and manage- MANPADS and essential components. This weapons are typically 1.5 to
ment, reduction and disposal, as well as includes strongly regulating their domestic two meters long
improving border controls to prevent illicit production, transfer and brokering, as well (4.9 to 6.6 feet) and weigh
trafficking. as banning their transfer to non-state end- between 14 to 18 kilos
Valery Zemskov, representative of the users. (30 to 39 pounds).
Collective Security Treaty Organization APEC also pledged to strengthen co-
(CSTO), drew attention to the initiatives ordination efforts in counter-terrorism,
of the six-member group, particularly the including the MANPADS issue, within
Russian Federation’s voluntary introduc- Asia-Pacific and between APEC’s Counter-
tion of “unilateral restraints on deliveries of Terrorism Task Force and the G-8’s Counter-
such systems to politically unstable coun- Terrorism Action Group, which was
tries and regions”. launched in June 2003.
Mr. Zemskov said the CSTO was pre- At the OSCE meeting, David Carriedo
pared to actively support the OSCE and of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism
other organizations in their efforts to miti- Committee (UNCTC) underscored the
gate the MANPADS menace through unified importance of strengthening such regional
standards which might also be considered initiatives. “The UNCTC is learning from
for adoption by other regional organizations the work of others on MANPADS and looks
such as the OSCE. forward to promoting the OSCE’s efforts in
Also playing a crucial role is the connection with the UNCTC’s meeting with
Wassenaar Arrangement, which in 2003 international, regional and sub-regional
agreed on a set of “Elements for Export organizations later this year,” Mr. Carriedo
Controls of MANPADS”. With an eye said.
towards adopting or supporting best Although the tasks involved in counter-
practices and initiatives, the OSCE works ing terrorism are daunting, OSCE partici-
closely with this group of 33 conventional pating States have unambiguously demon-
arms-exporting countries, 28 of which are strated firm political will to tackle current
also OSCE States. and emerging security challenges in the
21st century: more than 170 representa-
TOP PRIORIT Y tives from 52 of the OSCE’s 55 participating
French official Bruno Bisson shared the States took part in the January meeting.
highlights of the G-8 countries’ “Action Significantly, 40 of the 50 OSCE States that
Plan to Enhance Transport Security and have major airports sent key officials from
Control of MANPADS” which they adopted their capitals.
at their summit in Evian in June 2003. He
said that the threat posed to civil aviation Brian Woo is Head of the Secretariat’s Action
by these weapons, especially in the hands against Terrorism Unit, which was established
of terrorists or States that harboured them, in May 2002.
March 2004 OSCE Magazine 23