Media Center

Press Release


  March 8, 2007

Experts from a variety of national and international institutions talked about the dangers posed by Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) and renewed the call for the international community to act decisively to prevent these legitimate military defense weapons from illegal transfers and unauthorized use.

Ambassador Javier Sancho Bonilla, Costa Rica’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) and Chairman of the Committee on Hemispheric Security, chaired today’s special meeting, which brought experts together at OAS headquarters to consider effective strategies to mitigate the threat posed by non-state actors using MANPADS.

“Inadequate protection of arsenals and the availability of MANPADS on the black market pose a serious threat,” said Ambassador Sancho Bonilla. He noted that while the hemisphere has never had any attack carried out using MANPADS, there remains a latent threat, and an attack could inflict grave harm. The Costa Rican diplomat called on the OAS member states to prevent the weapons from getting into the hands of non-state actors such as terrorist groups and those engaged in international organized crime.

“MANPADS are a legitimate military weapon—the last line of defense for a soldier against attacking aircraft,” explained Chris Hughes of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense in his presentation, which used audio-visual aids to demonstrate the serious threat posed to civilian aircraft. Hughes explained that the weapon works via a missile guided by an infrared seeker that locks onto a heat source on the intended target, and can cover a range of up to 5 kilometers and an altitude of 3,500 meters. He also noted that CREWPADS—similar weapons, but fired by a crew—pose a grave danger.

Halina Biernacki, an aviation security expert with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), said the illicit manufacture, transfer, circulation and use of MANPADS pose a serious threat to civil aviation and to peace, security and stability worldwide, and can also bring economic consequences. She cited more than 40 incidents of MANPADS deployment over the past three decades, mainly in war zones.

For his part, Aaron McCrorie, Chief of Security Policy Research and Evaluation with Transports Canada, outlined Canada’s experience with risk assessment, which helps inform policy choices and develop balanced and appropriate responses to ensure the aviation systems are made secure.

Discussions also focused on national and regional approaches to the MANPADS concern, a review of OAS and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) initiatives, as well as resources available to assist member states and an OAS General Assembly resolution on implementation of OAS MANPADS guidelines.

The General Assembly last year called for the OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security to hold this special meeting, in conjunction with the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism and the Consultative Committee of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials.

Reference: E-073/07