The U.S. Department of State has issued a new report warning that thousands of man-portable air defense systems (Manpads) remain unaccounted for and may be “outside the control of national governments,” posing threats to the commercial aviation industry and military aircraft around the world.
According to the department, countering the proliferation of Manpads is a top U.S. national security priority. While the U.S. government and other nations have destroyed more than 32,500 of the shoulder-fired surface-to-air weapons in more than 30 countries since 2003, more than one million Manpads have been made worldwide since they were introduced in 1967.
The new report outlines numerous steps that the U.S. and other countries are taking to collect remaining stockpiles and stop additional attacks. Among them is the creation of a U.S. government interagency task force chaired by the State Department, which has implemented the United States International Aviation Threat Reduction Plan. The plan is part of the broader National Strategy for Aviation Security.
The State Department said that since 1975, more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by Manpads, causing about 28 crashes and more than 800 deaths across the globe. Most Manpads attacks have occurred in the world’s most troubled hot spots in Africa, the Middle East and Korea. However, there have been at least two attacks closer to the U.S.–one in Nicaragua and one in Costa Rica.
Since the November 2002 attempted shoot-down by terrorists of a Boeing 757 in Mombasa, Kenya, the U.S. has stepped up its efforts to keep Manpads from falling into the wrong hands, launching an initiative to prevent the illicit acquisition and use of the weapons by terrorists, criminals and other non-state operatives.
This year it helped launch the Manpads Contact Group with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The group’s primary function is coordinating each country’s efforts to counter the illicit proliferation of Manpads.