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Missing Manpads: Libya Threat

Updated on January 9, 2012

Missing Manpads In Libya Or Middle East Could Easily Take Out Civilian Aircraft

photo by kossy of Flickr
photo by kossy of Flickr

MANPADS Explained

Manpads Libya May Have Stockpiles

The death of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya has resulted in the fate of the nation being turned over to the National Transition Council (NTC) after the 2011 Libyan civil war, but even if the transitional government is able to hold elections and put in place a regime more suitable to United States interests there still remains fallout that will likely have consequences into 2012 and many years beyond. The only thing the Libyan leader had more of than spellings of his name were small arms ( Khaddafi, Qaddafi, Ghaddafi, Caddaphee). Who knows what the true spelling was and sometimes I guess they just make these things up as an inside joke. But small arms he did have and it is the Libya MANPADS that have become worrisome to analysts who believe that these man-portable air defense systems (bascially shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles) will make there way into the black market and the hands of terrorists with ill intentions. Libya manpads on the rise would be risky business indeed.

The threat is that the MANPADS from Libya will be able to target civilian aircraft and pose a danger to global aviation in general. More than 30,000 MANPADS have been said to have been "destroyed" by American efforts since 2003 and more recently US and Libyan bomb disposal teams have rounded up a number of about 5000 of the weapons and detonated them along the Libyan shore. But by some accounts that still leaves about 15000 of Gaddafi's stockpile in the hands of unknowns. Besides nations that actually produce MANPADS missiles it is believed that Libya has the largest collection of the low-flying aircraft and helicopter killers. This is another case of trying to clean up the mess after the USA was the one to give them these weapons in the first place. Between 1986 and 1989 the US handed MANPADS to anti-Soviet Afghan who used the missiles to destroy some 269 aircrafts but just happened to forget to return the SAMs after the fighting was over. The Soviets also released MANPADS into the playing field with many ending up under Libyan control.

Did these nations really expect the Middle East and African countries to just turn in the MANPADS like at some police gun buyback program. How twisted is the propaganda when the government wants to unarm citizens and give them Walmart gift certificates or something for their self-defense firearms while strategically shipping MANPADS by the truckload to small factions of guerrilla war fighters and even the ATF has their own guns-to-Mexico program which only came to light when they were likely used to kill a US Border Control agent. It seems like the government wants to arm just about everyone else but control it's electorate through strategic disarmament.

The missing Libya MANPADS can vary in sophistication from simple unguided SAMS to infrared or laser-guided varieties. Some of the rounded up Libya MANPADS appear to be 9K32 Strela 2 or NATO SA-7 grails. Those were Soviet made with a high explosive warhead and passive infrared homing guidance. Others were likely the FIM-43 Redeye and similar variety produced by the United States which also incorporate infrared homing capability. A study estimates that the likely cost of an attack on a US civilian aircraft could exceed $1billion dollars according to commissioned reports. Isn't it nice that the government thinks in terms of the dollar amount to see if it would be feasible to retrieve the lost weapons by buying them back rather than thinking in terms of human casualty and death. Not to mention these it stands to reason that some of these terrorists could make a lot of money from such buybacks and simply invest that in other manners of terrorism.

Fortunately, such SAMs can often be avoided through such anti-MANPADS counter measures as onboard lasers to deter infra-homing varieties. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be a high priority with practically no civilian aircraft being outfitted with such counter MANPADS technology. Possible solutions include the Northrup Grumman Guardian Missile Defense System and Excallibur is the name of one such project directed by DARPA looking at developing defensive laser technology at the price of some $21.4 million from the 2012 fiscal defense budget. DARPA does some good work and that seems to be a good use of funds but wouldn't it have been easier if you didn't give the terrorists or people likely to sell to terrorists the weapons in the first place?

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    • freetron profile image

      freetron 5 years ago from Florida

      Good article. I'm still wondering about those WMD's that went missing in Iraq. A Dutch writer said that convoy after convoy went from Iraq to Syria in the weeks before we bombed Iraq - and yet nothing in our news about that.

    • profile image

      John W. Spring 6 years ago

      againsttheodds,

      Based upon my earlier knowledge of what in Libya you call "MANPADS" were basically two types. The former Soviet SAM-7, which was originally designed to be fired or launched from an armored personnel carrier and the US "Stinger" shoulder-held surface-to-air missile. Both types were deployed in Afghanistan during the Afghan War.

      However, the former Soviet SAM-7 was inaccurate, very unreliable and highly dangerous to the person firing the weapon due to serious, if not fatal, burns on his body. If the former are still available to the Libyans, it is my opinion that we should have only a slight degree of concern. However, if, indeed, they have access to the US "Stinger" surface-to-air missiles, then we and every nation in the West should be deeply concerned. But due to Qadhafi's access to the former Soviet and more recent Russian arsenals, I doubt if he had any US "Singer" SAMs.

      johnwspring

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 6 years ago from Northern California

      Here's my paraphrase of a saying from late systems scientist and economic policy wonk, Glenn Burress:

      If the accountability of any bureaucracy sinks below a critical threshold value, the actual behavior of that organization will be the exact opposite of its stated purpose!

      Since Glenn's death, that saying is appearing to be increasingly true, and decreasingly funny.

    • againsttheodds profile image
      Author

      againsttheodds 6 years ago

      Yes it is true that US did not directly give MANPADS to Libya but they did proliferate the region with the SAMs that ended up in the hands of Gaddafi and others which lead to the current threat. Sorry if I was unclear and thanks again for reading.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 6 years ago from Northern California

      Voted up and interesting.

      "But by some accounts that still leaves about 15000 of Gaddafi's stockpile in the hands of unknowns. Besides nations that actually produce MANPADS missiles it is believed that Libya has the largest collection of the low-flying aircraft and helicopter killers. This is another case of trying to clean up the mess after the USA was the one to give them these weapons in the first place. Between 1986 and 1989 the US handed MANPADS to anti-Soviet Afghan who used the missiles to destroy some 269 aircrafts but just happened to forget to return the SAMs after the fighting was over. The Soviets also released MANPADS into the playing field with many ending up under Libyan control."

      You appear to be saying that the U.S. gave Mr. G the MANPADS. Then in the next sentence, you go into some detail about our giving MANPADS to anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the late 1980s.

      I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. Are you confusing Libya with Afghanistan? If not, it would have been helpful to break up the long paragraph into two shorter paragraphs, and then to add some more explanation.