Terrorism: April 11, 2002


As American Special Forces enter Georgia to help train that nation's defense forces in the War on Terrorism, the proliferation of man-portable surface-to-air defense systems (MANPADS) to Chechen rebels may pose a threat US aircraft.

During special operations sweeps in late March - early April, the Russians discovered "several" IGLA missile systems in a cache in the Vedeno district. Federal Security Service (FSB) representative Alexander Zdanovich said that Arab mercenaries operating in Chechnya were getting these weapons systems from Georgia.

In late March, Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburdzania theorized that those weapons were sold to Chechen rebels from someone at the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki, southern Georgia. Georgian Defense Ministry issued a statement on 5 April, denying Russian officials' accusation that Georgia supplied weapons to Chechen rebels and that Georgia had no IGLA MANPADs.

IGLA MANPADs are a highly-pilferable item on the Russian black market. A 26 year old heroin addict was arrested in Saint Petersburg on 25 March with one. The man claimed he found the missile launcher, which was operational, at a firing range near the Aleksandrovskaya railway station, and kept it in his dacha. 

The Russians remained that the Chechen rebels had air-to-air missiles and that rebel leaders were promising their subordinates $50,000 for every federal plane or helicopter they shoot down. IGLA MANPADs are not very effective against Soviet/Russian aircraft unless their IFF (Identify Friend-or-Foe) interrogators are rewired. However, against US forces they should work as designed. - Adam Geibel


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