Removing Manpads

What are MANPADS?

Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) are surface-to-air missiles that can be carried and fired by a single individual or a group of individuals. Surface-to-air missiles can also be launched from vehicles, but MANPADS pose an additional threat as they are easy to transport, conceal and only require one individual to operate. Furthermore, a single successful attack could have a devastating human life toll as well as an emotional and economic effect as all world communities question their safety in the air.

Most MANPADS consist of:

  • A missile packaged in a tube;
  • A launching mechanism (commonly known as a "gripstock"); and
  • 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.

What threat do MANPADS pose?

The Threat: MANPADS can pose a serious threat to any type of air travel whether it be passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, or military aircraft. This problem is exacerbated when these deadly munitions fall into the hands of terrorists, criminals, and non-state actors. MAG works to find, remove and destroy abandoned MANPADS promoting regional security and community safety. More than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by missiles fired from MANPADS since the 1970s.* The issue came to general public attention in November 2002 when terrorists attempted to shoot down a civilian airliner in Mombasa, Kenya. Since that time the United State has increased its efforts to recover MANPADS that may be acquired by terrorists and other non-state actors. MAG has worked closely with the U.S. Department of State in several countries including Libya, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan to support this initiative and combat this threat.

How does MAG help reduced the threat of MANPADS?

MAG looks for and destroys MANPADS based on direct information on their location or through our general work looking for items as part of our Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) or our Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) destruction work. When the items are found, the teams will typically try to destroy them immediately, when this is not feasible the seeker heads are destroyed immediately , rendering the unit inoperable and the missile is then securely stored until destruction at a later date. MAG has found stockpiles and caches in a variety of locations and environments. In Libya, stockpiles have been located in urban environments within damaged Ammunitions Supply Points and in South Sudan unsecured caches have been found in the bush. In all instances, they are unsecured and pose a serious safety concern.
*This information came off of The State Department website.
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