State Department Warns Of Missile Threat

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Aviators around the world should be on their guard against small shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, the U.S. State Department said recently. The weapons, also known as Manpads (man-portable air defense systems), "pose a serious threat to passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, and military aircraft around the world," the State Department said. Forty civilian aircraft have been hit by Manpad missiles since 1975, causing 28 crashes and over 800 deaths. All of the incidents, except for an unsuccessful 2002 attempt to shoot down an airliner in Kenya, occurred in "zones of conflict." Only two of the attacks occurred in the Western Hemisphere, one in Costa Rica and one in Nicaragua.

More than 1 million Manpads and missiles have been manufactured worldwide since they were first produced in 1967. Because they are so potentially deadly yet easy to transport, conceal, and use, they are "particularly attractive weapons to terrorists and criminals," the State Department said. Thousands of the weapons are believed to be in circulation on the black market, at prices starting at just a few hundred dollars. For more details about the weapons, plus a list of all the known civil attacks, go to the State Department web site.