The Introduction chapter is actually a guide to the technology used in these weapons – types of infra-red sensors, counter-measures, alternative control methods, ways to identify friendly aircraft etc. In most cases the first weapons to use each technology is mentioned, but this chapter generally avoids looking at individual weapons.
The Development chapter starts with the earliest attempts to produce man-portable anti-aircraft weapons in Nazi Germany, which ended in failure. We then move onto the first generation of infantry anti-aircraft missiles, starting with the American Redeye of the mid 1950s and 1960s, which followed on from the air launched AIM-9 Sidewinder. The Soviets soon followed, and their Strela-2 entered service at about the same time in the late 1960s.
We then move onto the British weapons, starting with the Blowpipe, which attempted to bypass the problems of infrared guidance technology by being manually guided. Work on this weapon began in the 1960s, it entered service in the 1970s but didn’t have its combat debut until the Falklands War in 1982, when it proved to be rather disappointing. We then look at the Javelin, which was still man-guided but with a better control system, and the Starburst, which used a laser link to control the missile. Finally we look at the Starstreak, another laser controlled system, with a more advanced guidance system (although still relying on the operator to aim)
We then move back to the US, and the Stinger missile, then to the Soviet replacements for the Strela. This is followed by a look at a number of larger, not really man-portable systems developed in Europe, and at the rather less well documented Chinese weapons.
The combat chapter starts with the debut of the Strela-2 in 1969 during the long period of fighting between Israel and Egypt along the Suez Canal. This saw the Egyptians gain the first success with a man portable anti-aircraft weapon, although the Egyptians and Israelis disagree on the date of that first success. Next we look at the use of the Strela-2 in Vietnam in the 1970s, when it had a major impact on US air operations, making helicopters, slow flying forward air control aircraft and large gunships rather vulnerable, forcing them to operate at higher altitudes and thus reducing their effectiveness.
The Falklands War saw them used on both sides, but with limited results. Ironically both sides achieved one success with the Blowpipe missile, which proved to have a very low success rate. In contrast the SAS fired five Stingers and shot down two Argentinean aircraft.
We also look at their use in the Nicaraguan Civil War of the 1980s, the fighting in Namibia and Angola, and the most famous use of the weapon, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This conflict gets the most detailed analysis, attempting to compare the very different figures for losses produced by the Afghans, Soviets and Americans. There is also a look at their use by non-governmental forces, in Iraq, Yugoslavia, during Putin’s various wars, and in Syria.
Development – A new antiaircraft defense
Use – MANPADS in combat
Author: Steven J. Zaloga