Author: Matt Schroeder

Update: Shoulder-fired Missile Proliferation

There have been several recent reports of the acquisition and (attempted) use of shoulder-fired missiles by terrorists and insurgents. Below is a quick summary of these reports: El Salvador: Foiled Assassination Attempt The most dramatic of these reports is that of a foiled assassination attempt against Salvadoran President Tony Saca. During a 6 October interview with the Salvadoran daily El Diario de Hoy, Saca revealed details of the alleged plot, which involved two SA-7 surface-to-air missiles and a Cuban national with alleged ties to the now defunct Medellin drug cartel in Colombia. The suspect, George Nayes, was arrested on September 13th and was subsequently extradited to the United States, where he has reportedly been charged with “drug trafficking and terrorism.”

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Defense Industry Gears Up for “Phase Two” of Arms Export Control Reform Campaign

The Defense Industry is laying the groundwork for yet another attempt to “reform” the US arms export control system. At a briefing held at the Heritage Foundation last week, Mark Esper of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) announced that the AIA is “fine tuning” Phase two of its campaign, which will, according to AIA's newsletter, feature a “new export control law that we will draft and take to the 110th Congress next year.” Previous proposals by reform advocates have met strong resistance from Congress, but changes in congressional leadership and industry’s strategy could result in a very different outcome this time around.

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Congress Appropriates $40 Million for DHS Counter-MANPADS Program

Last week President Bush signed the Fiscal Year 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which includes $40 million for the Department of Homeland Security's Counter-MANPADS Program – a multi-year initiative launched in 2003 to evaluate the feasibility of installing anti-missile systems on commercial airliners. The appropriation is nearly 10 times higher than the amount requested by the administration, and increases to $270 million the total amount appropriated for the program. Appropriators supplemented the administration’s request for the program after proponents of anti-missile systems intervened on its behalf. In February, Rep. Steve Israel called the budget request "lip service" and accused the administration of "ma[king] a decision to effectively kill the counter-MANPADS program..." A month later, Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff calling the administration’s decision to reduce funding for the program “misguided and dangerous.”

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FAS Obtains a Copy of U.S. Arms Sales Report

The Arms Sales Monitoring Project has obtained, via the Freedom of Information Act, a copy of the Defense Department’s contribution to the annual “Section 655” report* on U.S. arms…

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MANPADS for Hezbollah?

In the August 9th edition of Jane’s Defense Weekly, Deputy Editor Robin Hughes reveals alleged plans by Iran to supply Hezbollah with “a steady supply of weapons systems,” including Chinese QW-1 and its own Mithaq (or Misagh) man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). The article cites unnamed western diplomats, who also claim that Iran agreed to provide, “at a later date,” several different types of Russian missiles, including the sophisticated SA-16. Assuming the information is accurate, the missile transfers are significant for several reasons. First, the missiles are a potential threat not only to Israeli military aircraft but also commercial airliners worldwide. Hezbollah has a long history of terrorist attacks against civilian targets. According to Georgetown Professor Daniel Byman, the organization “was perhaps the world’s most active terrorist organization,” and had a hand in several high profile attacks, including the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in 1985 and the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. Its involvement in such acts has waned in recent years, but there is no guarantee that it won’t resume these activities, or retransfer the missiles to terrorists with immediate designs on commercial airliners. Secondly, the transfers violate a nascent but critically important international norm against the transfer of MANPADS to non-state actors, which is codified in resolutions, declarations and agreements adopted by members of several multilateral forums. Some of these agreements explicitly ban the transfer of MANPADS to non-state actors, while others do so indirectly by limiting such transfers to “foreign governments or to agents specifically authorised to act on behalf of a government after presentation of an official EUC certified by the Government of the receiving country.”

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Lawmakers Scold Administration Over F-16 Sale to Pakistan

At Thursday’s hearing on the sale of 36 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, Assistant Secretary of State John Hillen endured tongue-lashings from several members of the House International Relations Committee (HIRC), who objected to the manner in which his bureau has managed the $5.1 billion arms package. Of particular concern was the administration’s unilateral decision to waive the customary 20-day pre-notification for major arms sales, which many members viewed as a deliberate attempt to circumvent the committee’s authority. The decision – and the confrontation it provoked – could have far-reaching consequences, not only for Congressional oversight of arms sales but also several key State Department initiatives.

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Nicaragua Agrees to Destroy More MANPADS

On July 13th, the Nicaraguan National Assembly voted to destroy an additional 651 of its large stockpile of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles, bringing it one step closer to fulfilling President Enrique Bolanos's earlier commitment to destroy Nicaragua's entire stock of Man-portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The Assembly approved the plan despite opposition from the Sandinista National Liberation Front (SNLF), which led a partially successful campaign to derail the US-funded destruction initiative in early 2005. The missiles - 2000 SA series MANPADS - are the remnants of a massive infusion of Soviet military assistance to the left-leaning Sandinista government, which was the target of a US-supported insurgency in the 1980s. The proxy wars in Central America ended shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the huge stockpiles of Soviet weapons remained - an attractive target for arms traffickers. Diversions of Nicaragua’s missiles date back at least to 1990, when Sandinistan military officers sold 8 missile launchers and 28 missiles to rebels in El Salvador. Three years later, 19 more black market missiles were discovered in the charred remains of a Managuan auto repair shop that doubled as a storage site for a large cache of illicit rockets, mines, explosives and MANPADS. The repair shop caught fire after part of the cache exploded.

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Pakistan to receive 36 F-16 fighter jets

On Monday, the Bush administration announced a massive $5.1 billion arms package for Pakistan, the largest arms sale to the Indian subcontinent since US sanctions were suspended in 2001. The package includes 36 F-16 fighter jets, armaments, and upgrades for its existing fleet of F-16s. The announcement came five days after the administration officially notified Congress of the sales. The deal is significant for many reasons. It will help to modernize Pakistan's aging airforce, and help pave the way for an even larger fighter jet sale to India. The sale also has tremendous symbolic significance. In 1991, the first Bush Administration imposed various sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program, the most high profile of which was the impounding of 28 F-16s purchased by Pakistan in the 1980’s. Pakistan lobbied hard for their release but the Bush and Clinton administrations held firm, and the planes came to symbolize the post-Cold War deterioration of US-Pakistani relations. Following the September 11th attacks, the US hastily sought to mend diplomatic fences with Pakistan, which has provided critical support in the War on Terror. The Bush administration immediately lifted the ban on military aid to India and Pakistan and gradually increased the quantity and sophistication of weapons exports to both countries. The F-16 sale, which still tops the list of weapons sought by the Pakistani government, signifies a completion of the rapprochement between the US and its erstwhile ally.

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