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US rushes MANPADS missiles to Ukraine

Washington is sending highly sensitive items such as portable air defence systems to Kyiv, senior US defence official says.

Published On 12 Mar 2022

The US and NATO are shipping weapons into Ukraine at breakneck speed, including highly sensitive items such as shoulder-fired missiles called man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) that can take down aircraft.

The Western arms deliveries, another of which is expected to arrive in the coming hours, have been vital to enabling Ukrainians to fight the invading Russian forces far more effectively and fiercely than US intelligence expected.

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But moving those amounts of weaponry into the largest conflict in Europe since World War II carries with it risks that some could fall into the wrong hands – a possibility the West has considered.

“Frankly, we believe that risk is worth taking right now because the Ukrainians are fighting so skillfully with the tools at their disposal and they’re using them so creatively,” a senior US defence official said on Friday when asked about that danger.

Highly portable missiles such as Stinger surface-to-air missiles, which are a type of MANPAD, can help win wars, but in the past, they have also been lost, sold, or wound up in the arsenals of armed groups.

For example, hundreds of Stingers supplied by the US were seen as key to helping mujahideen rebels drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan in a conflict that spanned the 1980s and 1990s.

But the US subsequently spent years trying to recover unused MANPADS from that country and other conflict zones around the world.

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In a Pentagon-financed study in 2019, the RAND Corporation think-tank estimated that upwards of 60 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS since the 1970s, killing more than 1,000 civilians. As of 2019, 57 non-state armed groups were confirmed to possess or suspected to possess MANPADS.

‘Risk worth taking’: US rushes shoulder-fired missiles to Ukraine  Al Jazeera English

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