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Documents shed important light on Viktor Bout case

By Matt Schroeder

As the trial against alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout gets underway, we thought the following documents from the case might be of interest:

(1) Handwritten notes that Bout reportedly took during the meeting in Thailand. The notes include short-hand references to various weapons, including “AA” or anti-aircraft (believed to be a reference to Igla missiles), “AK-47,” “UAV” (unmanned aerial vehicle), 10,000,000 “7,62 x 54” (ammunition used in Russian Dragunov sniper rifles and PKM machine guns), RPG-7 and RPG-22 rocket launchers, and “AG-17” – presumably a reference to the AGS-17 30 mm automatic grenade launcher. Some of the notes are more cryptic, including references to 500 “60 mm”, 200 “82 mm” and 40 “120 mm.” Presumably, these are references to mortars since 60mm, 82mm and 120mm are all common calibers for mortar rounds.

(2) A print-out of an email that Bout allegedly sent to one of the DEA’s confidential sources. This email is mentioned prominently in other court documents made public shortly after Bout was arrested. Oddly, the email was reportedly sent from an address linked to an account set up by a “Victor But.” Use of an alias so close to his own name when setting up an email account intended for negotiating arms transfers seems uncharacteristically careless for Bout.

(3) Excerpts from pamphlets on Soviet-era cargo planes that Bout allegedly recommended for delivering weapons to the FARC. According to investigators, the weapons were to be air-dropped from these planes. The same delivery method was used by the orchestrators of a 1999 plot to divert to the FARC 50,000 Jordanian assault rifles intended for the Peruvian military. The traffickers managed to drop 10,000 of the rifles into FARC-controlled areas of Colombia before the government of Jordan learned of the scheme and canceled the deal. In their book, Merchant of Death, Doug Farah and Stephen Braun suggest that Bout was linked to the diversion. They claim that the plane used to deliver the rifles “…belong[ed] to one of Bout’s front companies…”

(4) One of several articles on the FARC that describes their criminal activities.

(5) A map of South America that Bout reportedly used in discussions about the locations of American radar stations.

(6) Technical documents on anti-tank missiles that Bout allegedly offered to sell to the FARC. The documents were reportedly taken from a memory stick provided to the DEA during the sting. It appears that missile on offer was the AT-4 Spigot, a wire-guided Russian missile system that has a maximum range of 2000-2500 meters and can penetrate up to 400-460 mm of armor, depending on the type of missile used.

The documents (and the above assessments) were originally posted on the Strategic Security Blog in 2009. The original post, which contains additional analysis, is available here.

Missile Watch – November 2010


Missile Watch

A publication of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Vol. 3, Issue 3
November 2010
Editor: Matt Schroeder

Contents:

Editor’s Note: Wikileaks and arms trafficking, Missile Watch sponsorship program
Global News: UN Arms Register: Venezuela was the largest importer of MANPADS in 2009
Global News: Extradition of Viktor Bout could reveal much about the illicit arms trade
Afghanistan: No evidence of Iranian MANPADS training, claims NATO official
Egypt: Another Massive Missile Cache Discovered in the Sinai
Somalia: Photos of missile confirms claims in UN report, but questions remain
United States: FAS obtains key counter-MANPADS report
Additional News & Resources
About the Authors
About Missile Watch

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Editor’s Note
The surprise extradition of notorious arms trafficker Viktor Bout to the United States tops the list of developments covered in this edition of Missile Watch. The former Russian intelligence officer is widely considered to be one of the most prolific arms traffickers of the last twenty years, and his trial is likely to yield important new insights into the illicit arms trade. Also noteworthy is the release of the Department of Homeland Security’s final report on its counter-MANPADS program. The report confirms that two anti-missile systems evaluated during the program are capable of protecting planes from MANPADS, but the $43 billion price tag may preclude their installation on more than a small number of airliners.

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Missile Watch – June 2010


Missile Watch

A publication of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Vol. 3, Issue 2
June 2010
Editor: Matt Schroeder
Contributing Author: Scoville Fellow Matt Buongiorno

Contents:

Global News: Survey of black market prices for shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles reveals large differences in missile prices
Afghanistan: No shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in seized Afghan arms caches, confirms ISAF spokesperson
Egypt: Shoulder-fired missiles found in the Sinai were old, “in very bad condition,” says Egyptian official
Iraq: Shoulder-fired missile in video of insurgent attack could be Iranian
Iraq: Missile seized in 2008 was a 30-year-old Russian Strela-2M MANPADS, documents reveal
Iraq: At least 27 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles seized from arms caches in Iraq since February
Lebanon: Israeli claim about Igla-S delivery to Hezbollah raises many questions
Peru: U.S. government concerned over reported missile diversion in Peru, but praises investigation
Somalia: Shoulder-fired missile attack at Mogadishu airport foiled by peace-keepers, according to UN report

Additional News & Resources

About Missile Watch

About the Authors

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Missile Watch – February 2010

Missile Watch
A publication of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Vol. 3, Issue 1
February 2010
Editor: Matt Schroeder
Contributing Author: Matt Buongiorno
Graphics: Alexis Paige

Contents:

Global Overview

Afghanistan: No recent discoveries of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles in insurgent arms caches
Eritrea: UN slaps arms embargo on major missile proliferator
Iraq: Fewer public reports of seized shoulder-fired missiles in Iraq, but MANPADS still a threat
Ireland: Alleged plot to shoot down a police helicopter may have involved surface-to-air missile
Myanmar: 300 shoulder-fired missiles in insurgent arsenal, claims Thai Colonel
North Korea: North Korean arms shipment included MANPADS, Thai report confirms
Peru: Igla missiles stolen from Peruvian military arsenals, claims alleged trafficker
Spain: Failed assassination attempts underscore the risks for terrorists of relying on black market missiles
United States: Congress to receive DHS report on anti-missile systems for commercial airliners in February
United States: Documents from trial of the “Prince of Marbella” reveal little about his access to shoulder-fired missiles
United States: No new international MANPADS sales since 1999
Venezuela: U.S. receives “assurances” from Russia regarding controls on shoulder-fired missiles sold to Venezuela, but questions remain

Additional News & Resources

About Missile Watch

About the Authors

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Documents obtained by FAS shed some light on Viktor Bout case, but key questions remain

By Matt Schroeder

Documents provided to the Federation of American Scientists by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York provide additional details about the case against alleged arms trafficker Viktor Bout, but many important questions remain (publicly) unanswered. Below is a brief summary of these documents and their significance. Continue Reading →

Securing Venezuela’s Arsenals

By Matt Schroeder

FAL

The recent discovery of Swedish AT-4 anti-tank rockets sold to Venezuela in a Colombian rebel arms cache raises serious questions about Venezuela’s ability to safeguard its arsenal of modern weaponry, including dozens of advanced SA-24 shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles.  Given the potential threat posed by these missiles and other weapons in Venezuela’s rapidly growing arsenal, the international community should take immediate steps to identify and close the gaps in Venezuela’s stockpile security and to ensure that the end-use monitoring conducted by states that export weapons to Venezuela is sufficiently robust.

According to Colombian authorities, Swedish anti-tank rocket launchers were found in October 2008 in an arms cache allegedly linked to the FARC.[1] On July 27th, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos asserted that “[i]n several operations in which we have recovered weapons from the FARC, we have found powerful munitions and powerful equipment, including anti-tank weapons, from a European country that sold them to Venezuela and that turned up in the hands of the FARC.”[2] Thomas Samuelsson of the Swedish firm Saab Bofors Dynamics confirmed that the AT-4 rockets were manufactured and sold to Venezuela by his firm.[3] The Venezuelan government responded harshly to Colombia’s revelation, calling it “laughable” and recalling the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia.[4]

This is not the first time that Colombian authorities have discovered Venezuelan weapons in rebel arms caches.  In 2006, the Federation of American Scientists called attention to several reports of Venezuelan firearms acquired by the FARC, sometimes “…in lots of 50,” according to a demobilized guerrilla interviewed by Jane’s Information Group.[5] In most of these cases, it is not clear what role, if any, that Venezuelan government officials played in the diversion.  There is much speculation about the regime’s support of the FARC and its role in arms trafficking to the embattled rebel group,[6] but verifying accusations of high-level complicity by the Venezuelan government based on information in the public domain is nearly impossible and, at one level, it doesn’t matter.  The Venezuelan government is responsible for safeguarding the military’s arsenal and should be held accountable for any diverted weapons, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their diversion. The focus, therefore, should shift from the fruitless back-and-forth with Chavez over his regime’s alleged support for the FARC to identifying the specific sources of diverted weapons, bolstering Venezuelan stockpile security, and calling on states that arm Venezuela to closely monitor their exported weapons. Continue Reading →

Latest Missile Plot had Little Chance of Success, but ‘Stinger Stings’ are Valuable Tools

On Wednesday, the FBI thwarted an alleged terrorist plot to shoot down a military cargo plane with a Stinger missile.  According to a criminal complaint obtained by the New York Times, four men were arrested on charges of conspiring to use “a surface-to-air missile system to destroy military aircraft at the New York Air National Guard Base located at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York. “ The plot also allegedly included plans for a simultaneous attack on a Bronx synagogue using an improvised explosive device containing more than 30 pounds of C-4 explosives.

The FBI operation in New York is one of several since the 1980s in which undercover US agents have thwarted  attempts to smuggle, acquire or use man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), including US-made Stinger missiles.  These plots feature conspirators that range from rank amateurs whose ability to obtain MANPADS is dubious at best to sophisticated criminals with a demonstrated ability to obtain and ship weapons to bad actors worldwide.  An example of the former is Hemant Lakhani, a British merchant born in India who was arrested in 2003 for attempting to import 200 Russian Igla missiles into the US and to sell them to individuals claiming to be members of a Somali terrorist organization.  Lakhani was so inept that undercover Russian agents ended up furnishing him with a (deactivated) SA-18 missile after he repeatedly tried and failed to obtain a missile himself.  The agents then had to reroute the missile after Lakhani arranged to have it delivered to the wrong address.
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Missile Watch #4: Global Update (January – March 2009)

Afghanistan

In March, the Sunday Times of London reported on the Taliban’s alleged acquisition of Iranian-supplied SA-14 missiles, which the Afghan insurgent group reportedly wants for a “spectacular” attack on coalition forces. The accusation reportedly came from unidentified “American intelligence sources.” According to the Sunday Times, “…coalition forces only became aware of the presence of SA14s two weeks ago when parts from two of them were discovered during an American operation in western Afghanistan.” The article provides no information on the number of SA-14s allegedly circulating in Afghanistan, their condition, or Iran’s alleged connection to them. When queried about the Sunday Times article, a US military official told the Federation of American Scientists that “[man-portable air defense systems] have been recovered in Afghanistan since 2007,” but refused to provide additional details because of “operational security concerns.”

Other types of MANPADS reportedly acquired by the Taliban and other unauthorized end-users in Afghanistan include the Chinese HN-5, photographs of which were obtained by the Washington Times in 2007, and the ubiquitous SA-7.

For information on Iraq, Sri Lanka and Somalia, click here.

Missile Watch #3: Black Market Missiles Still Common in Iraq

Despite a million dollar buyback program and hundreds of raids on illicit weapons caches, US and Iraqi forces are still finding surface-to-air missiles in insurgent stockpiles.  US military press releases and media reports reveal that, since October 2006, at least 121 such missiles have been recovered, along with 4 additional launchers and various components.  These reports suggest that insurgents still have ready access to surface-to-air missiles, including MANPADS, at least some of which are reportedly still operational.  The missiles pose an immediate threat to civilian and military aircraft in Iraq and a potential threat to aircraft in the region.

To read the rest of Missile Watch #3, click here.