Skip

MANPADS proliferation
November 29, 2012 12:42 AM   Subscribe

Surface-to-air missile proliferation in Syria has become something to watch.

Caution: War videos
When the war started, a Syrian rebel was lucky to have a weapon of any type. Over time and with great sacrifice they gained more weapons typically by capture or buying from the enemy (and arms shipments from outside). Eventually heavy weapons including tanks were captured and they started looking something like a real army. The ultimate loot however are MANPADS - shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles - to counter the regime's helicopters and jets which have been bombing civilians. MANPADS are particularly worrisome should they get into the hands of terrorists since they can easily bring down commercial jets. Syria has 100s or 1000s of them from Russia (allied with Syria since the Cold War to balance US influence with Israel). As Syrian military bases are overrun and captured, MANPADS are making their way into the hands of various rebel groups. A good source of intelligence for tracking missile proliferation has been YouTube and experts are following developments including Brown Moses in England. There are a couple different models of MANPADS in Syria but the most advanced is the SA-24. Photo evidence of SA-24 MANPADS in the possession of Syrian rebels was first reported on November 13, 2012. "As far as I know, this is the first SA-24 Manpads ever photographed outside of state control," said one expert. On November 22, video evidence of complete working SA-7 MANPADS appeared, including a rebel giving instructions how to assemble and fire it should other rebels be watching YouTube. Then on November 28, a video appeared of a Syrian helicopter downed by an apparent missile strike,[2],[3], the first visually confirmed hit of an aircraft by a surface-to-air missile in Syria. Concerned with the proliferation of advanced SAMs in the region, Israel is developing secret counter measures.
posted by stbalbach (44 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the NYT link:

This moment was a long time coming, and so is unsurprising. The ground-to-air war (and the likely regime retaliation for this hit) can be expected to be bloodier from here. Remember the strike in Azaz after the jet downing this summer?

From the Wikipedia link:

On 6 April 1994, a surface-to-air missile struck one of the wings of the Dassault Falcon 50 carrying three French crew and nine passengers, including Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira, as it prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda, before a second missile hit its tail. The plane erupted into flames in mid-air before crashing into the garden of the presidential palace, exploding on impact. This incident was the ignition spark of the Rwandan Genocide.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:11 AM on November 29, 2012


"MANPAD" is the very worst name for a piece of macho military ordnance that I have ever heard.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:33 AM on November 29, 2012 [19 favorites]


MANPADS are particularly worrisome should they get into the hands of terrorists since they can easily bring down commercial jets.

Aren't they also famously the number-one status symbol for ambitious young warlords (a fashion first developed after the CIA-supplied Stinger ones that flooded Afghanistan years back)?
posted by colie at 1:58 AM on November 29, 2012


The Guardian this morning is reporting the additional MANPADS shoot-down of a MiG jet near Aleppo. Looking at the video posted there, though, that looks like the same wreckage represented in the earlier Youtube footage as the remains of the Mi 8 helicopter. So who knows?
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:58 AM on November 29, 2012


MANPADS seem to have been an issue since at least the invasion and occupation of Iraq. How come we haven't seen jetliners getting blown out of the sky more often?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:36 AM on November 29, 2012


As far as I remember one or two freight jets have been shot down by missile fire while landing or taking off from Baghdad.
posted by brokkr at 2:41 AM on November 29, 2012


"MANPAD" is the very worst name for a piece of macho military ordnance that I have ever heard.

It sounds a lot better when you consider they were originally going to use Tactical Anti-air Man-POrtable muNition.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:56 AM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's MANPADS, dammit.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:28 AM on November 29, 2012


Yes, and you can use them with confidence even on days of heavy bombardment.

... Do they have wings?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:37 AM on November 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


Pretty humiliating for the regime to be defeated with what are in large part its own weapons (if that is what's happening).

And strangely reminscent of the Trigan Empire where, if memory serves (and it doesn't usually) Trigo and his barbarian mates started out armed with sticks but defeated the dictator by taking his hi-tech tanks, ships and planes out of his nerveless hands and using them against him.
posted by Segundus at 4:44 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


There aren't too many cases of civilian airliners being shot down with MANPADS though, right? I'm fine with some proliferation of weapons that level the playing field against oppressors' air hardware.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:56 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's hoping Bashar's plane gets to see one of his own SAMs returned to him very soon.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:02 AM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


MANPADS seem to have been an issue since at least the invasion and occupation of Iraq. How come we haven't seen jetliners getting blown out of the sky more often?

The United States pretty much runs every war that happens in the region, and we don't give out advanced weaponry to anyone but our closest allies. I believe only Israel has access to everything.

Most of the good opposition fighters in Syria are al Qaeda or their affiliates, and while the CIA is in Turkey handing them a lot of weapons, the Pentagon has so far denied access to advanced devices like surface to air missiles due to the proliferation of Stingers during the Afghanistan War.

There are three possible sources: stolen Syrian weaponry (most likely), or the Gulf States are ignoring the Pentagon's orders and sending black market equipment anyway, or the CIA is making the same mistake again by handing out those weapons because their coup effort in Syria has not been very successful so far.

In any scenario, we'll be hearing about Syria for a long time. Since our coalition has flooded that nation with well trained mujaheddin and handed them more weapons, we'll spend as many years trying to get them out of Syria as we have spent trying to dismantle the Assad regime. We're trying a variation of the Libyan uprising, and we'll have the same results: destabilization of the only operational government, blowback, unforeseen consequences, more violence, and perhaps another attempt to solve it with more violence that may or may not end up causing a regional war.
posted by tripping daisy at 5:40 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


> We're trying a variation of the Libyan uprising, and we'll have the same results: destabilization of the only operational government, blowback, unforeseen consequences, more violence, and perhaps another attempt to solve it with more violence that may or may not end up causing a regional war.

See? Palin 2016's not such an unnerving prospect.
posted by de at 5:46 AM on November 29, 2012


They can hit a moving helicopter with a hand-launched missile but they sure can't aim a camera.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:44 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


And they filmed from a school yard during recess judging by the audio. [2]
posted by de at 6:51 AM on November 29, 2012


There aren't too many cases of civilian airliners being shot down with MANPADS though, right?
In 2002, two SA-7 were fired against a 757 of an Israeli airline in Kenya. (They missed.)
posted by kickingtheground at 7:00 AM on November 29, 2012


Usually, forces that can operate large planes are also able to secure the airfields enough to allow the planes to take off in a tight pattern to stay out of range of shoulder launched missiles. With civilian airliners, it's only a matter of time.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:10 AM on November 29, 2012


This is just a statement, and not an endorsement of either but to practically shrug off the explosion and descend under power and in control is an impressive act of both pilot skills and Soviet helicopter engineering. Helicopters seem so damn fragile, but Built MIG Tough, I guess.
posted by lstanley at 7:15 AM on November 29, 2012


to practically shrug off the explosion and descend under power and in control

Well, it did crash rather spectacularly, so I don't know how controlled that descent was.
posted by Dasein at 7:37 AM on November 29, 2012


Pretty sure those helicopter dudes died.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:40 AM on November 29, 2012


That should be "Built Mil Tough", properly speaking. Looks like an Mi-8 or Mi-17 Hip in the video.

And it's the Mi-24 Hind gunship that made the legend of Russian helicopters -- it's the Hind that inspired the quote from an Afghan mujahid in the '80s, "We do not fear the Russians. But we fear their helicopters." (Of course, that changed when the US started sending them MANPADS, first SA-7s, and then Stingers.)
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:40 AM on November 29, 2012


NPR is also reporting that the rebels downed a MiG jet fighter yesterday.
posted by Chutzler at 7:44 AM on November 29, 2012


Here's hoping Bashar's plane gets to see one of his own SAMs returned to him very soon.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:02 on 11/29
[3 favorites +] [!]


Yeah, I mean it would be terrible if a peaceful resolution where Bashir stepped down and left the country were to obtain. More blood for the blood god! More skulls for his throne.
posted by samofidelis at 8:06 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Comments removed, cut it the fuck out.]
posted by cortex at 8:15 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I mean it would be terrible if a peaceful resolution where Bashir stepped down and left the country were to obtain. More blood for the blood god! More skulls for his throne.

A god who needs human blood and has a throne of skulls? Sounds pretty metal.
posted by Somnolent Jack at 8:15 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Back it up folks, start again.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:15 AM on November 29, 2012


Thanks for the link to that Brown Moses blog - it's a great resource (for me, as an alternative to traditional media) to see someone curating all these videos and putting together a cohesive narrative from them. Otherwise they become out of context and disjointed to someone who has little working knowledge of the situation. I had also previously assumed that weapons like these were somewhat more accessible than they actually are...

(and not to derail, but internet access has now been cut off in Syria)
posted by antonymous at 9:00 AM on November 29, 2012


I too had assumed that older soviet arms were easily accessible in these situations. Is it that selling arms to the rebels is not as profitable as selling to bigger organizations or is it that the CIA is taking a hands off approach to this conflict? An expert in the conflict would be greatly appreciated!

edit: a shameless plea for information from the informed. I also can't grammar.
posted by Somnolent Jack at 9:16 AM on November 29, 2012


Pretty humiliating for the regime to be defeated with what are in large part its own weapons (if that is what's happening).

Yeah, almost as bad as having people knock down your skyscrapers with your own commercial airliners.
posted by goethean at 9:47 AM on November 29, 2012


goethean: "Pretty humiliating for the regime to be defeated with what are in large part its own weapons (if that is what's happening).

Yeah, almost as bad as having people knock down your skyscrapers with your own commercial airliners.
"

Really? We're moving on to LOL911 amirite now?
posted by lazaruslong at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Folks? Make an actual visible effort here.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:55 AM on November 29, 2012


MANPADS -- mostly stinger missiles -- were also instrumental in turning the tide against the Soviets in the Afghan-Soviet war.
posted by Drexen at 10:06 AM on November 29, 2012


Usually, forces that can operate large planes are also able to secure the airfields enough to allow the planes to take off in a tight pattern to stay out of range of shoulder launched missiles. With civilian airliners, it's only a matter of time.

It is not at all clear that a shoulder launched SAM can hit or bring down a civilian airliner. Almost all (if not all) MANPADS are passive infra red guided (they fly toward a high source of heat) and civilian jet engines are fundamentally different from Helicopters, fighter jet or bomber engines, although very similar to some of the engines on military transports (It would be interesting to find out MANPADS effectiveness there).

Civilian engines are high bypass turbofans, these days almost a ducted fan, more than a straight turbine engine. This kind of engine mixes a LOT of ambient air with the exhaust and doesn't really provide a clear IR signature for the missile to lock onto.

Also civilian airliners are usually pretty robust compared to fighter jets (even russian ones) and the warheads on these things are small (usually less than 10 pounds and often less than 5) and probably wont damage a large airliner enough to immediately bring it down.

I do agree that we will probably find out and I sure don't want to be on the plane that finds out just how effective a MANPAD is against a 737.
posted by bartonlong at 10:30 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Really? We're moving on to LOL911 amirite now?

I think we're just pointing out that this is what rebels, insurgents, revolutionaries and pretty much anyone lacking an industrial base that rivals their foes has to do and has done, since Cyrus used an army of liberated Babylonian slaves to divert the Euphrates and capture Babylon.

Note to self - turning your empire into a cesspit of slavery is not a solid plan.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:36 AM on November 29, 2012


bartonlong: I was more thinking of the 10,001 places in the US alone near commercial airports where there are easy setup points for teams to fire off one or two SAMs at very close range to aircraft taking off or landing. Probably suicide missions, but still feasible by determined people.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:48 AM on November 29, 2012


I too had assumed that older soviet arms were easily accessible in these situations.

If you're talking AK-47s, sure, but they'd rather have new ones. If you're talking MANPADS, well, they get old and unreliable. "Soviet" era anything isn't likely to be something to worry about. Still, Russia has continued to supply the Syrian military with arms, so this doesn't rule them out as being available when bases are taken. But an illicit trade in old MANPADS is of more limited concern.
posted by dhartung at 1:50 PM on November 29, 2012


I'm afraid you've both missed my point : MANPADS are serious weapons designed for shooting down combat aircraft. Yes, they'd make excellent tools for terrorists, but they aren't used much by terrorists. Why not? Easy, if you've got one, you can go kill an actual military target instead, not just kill random civilians, but actually kill highly trained pilots in multimillion dollar aircraft who kill your people every day.

Yes, you obviously should prevent them being sold in the U.S., E.U., etc., well bored rednecks might decide they'd shoot down some politician's flight. Ain't likely anyone involved in real conflicts would waste these on civilians though.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:15 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


bartonlong writes "Also civilian airliners are usually pretty robust compared to fighter jets (even russian ones) and the warheads on these things are small (usually less than 10 pounds and often less than 5) and probably wont damage a large airliner enough to immediately bring it down. "

Ten pounds of explosive (which is a pretty impressive explosion even for something like dynamite) blowing an engine apart on take off when the wings are full of fuel would seem to be both hard to recover from (assuming you still have a wing on that side) and has the potential to set alight the fuel load on that side.

Burhanistan writes "Probably suicide missions, but still feasible by determined people."

The first few, certainly the majority of the first strikes wouldn't. I'd bet most of the actors would get away clean. In most places the attack could be launched from outside of the perimeter of the airport and the people launching the missile would be making their get away even before the missile hits the plane.

If it is true that the guidance systems are unable to target commercial planes I wonder how hard it would be to adapt them to use human guidance via missile mounted camera.
posted by Mitheral at 6:31 PM on November 29, 2012


Brown Moses, previously.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:39 AM on November 30, 2012




U.S. Sees Syria Prepping Chemical Weapons for Possible Attack

Oh, that's not good. Whether the report is true or false, that's not good.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2012


I don't really trust anonymous U.S. officials warning about WMD anymore.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:52 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]




« Older BNP 2012   |   gentle observer Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post