Nuclear Weapons

New Information on Somali MANPADS

07.27.07 | 2 min read | Text by Matt Schroeder

The latest report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia contains additional information about the shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles used by Islamic insurgents to shoot down a Belarusian cargo aircraft in March. Below is an excerpt from the UN report:

On 23 March 2007, at approximately 1700 hours, an IL-76 cargo plane
belonging to Transaviaexport, a Belarusian company, was shot down after a missile
fired by Shabaab fighters hit the left wing. The plane, with 11 crewmembers and
passengers, was hit at low altitude following take-off. It had earlier delivered
logistics and spare parts for another aircraft that had made an emergency landing at
Mogadishu International Airport. The missile used to shoot down the plane was an
SA-18 (MANPAD, Man Portable Air Defence System). The SA-18 was reported to
be part of a consignment of six SA-18s that had been delivered by Eritrea to
ICU/Shabaab. Two missiles were fired at the plane; one hit the target and the other
missed. The Monitoring Group showed the Committee a video of the actual firing of
the missile, during the midterm briefing on 27 April 2007.

The video mentioned in the excerpt surfaced shortly after the attack, and stills from it were posted on the Washington Post’s website in June. The FAS identified the missile in the still as an SA-18 “Grouse,” Russia’s most advanced man-portable air defense system (MANPADS). While first and second generation Soviet missiles (SA-7s, SA-14s, and SA-16s) are widely proliferated amongst terrorists and insurgents, comparatively few groups have acquired SA-18s. Their use in Somalia is a set-back to international counter-MANPADS efforts.

The UN report provides no information on where Eritrea obtained the missiles or whether the consignment is the only shipment of SA-18s to the Islamists. Eritrea is not known to have received the missiles via government-to-government arms sales, although information on such sales is incomplete at best. According to Jane’s Information Group, the SA-18 has been exported to Belarus, Brazil, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Peru, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Ukraine, Vietnam and “some other undisclosed states in Europe, Asia and South America.”

A forthcoming report on an investigation by the Monitoring Group into the attack on the Belarusian cargo plane may reveal more information on the missile consignment.

For more information:

Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia
, S/2007/436, 18 July 2007.

Video Shows Somali Insurgent with Sophisticated SA-18 Missile,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 30 April 2007.

“Update: Shoulder-fired Missiles in Somalia,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 30 April 2007.

“Somalia: Don’t Forget about the Missiles….,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 9 January 2007.

“Arms to Somalia: Deja vu,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 20 November 2006.

Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1676 (2006),
October 2006.

“Appendix 14A: Global Efforts to Control MANPADS” in SIPRI Yearbook 2007: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Oxford University Press, June 2007).

ASMP Issue Brief #1: MANPADS Proliferation