Missing SAMs in Libya alarms the West
by Staff Writers
Cairo (UPI) Jun 23, 2011
The United States and its allies are concerned that al-Qaida and other terrorist groups may have got their hands on scores, if not hundreds, of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles plundered from Libyan military bases after the civil war erupted there in March.
So far, only four missiles have been recovered, mainly by two European mine-clearing outfits -- the Mines Advisory Group of Britain and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Actions -- hired by the U.S. State Department to scour Libya for the missing SAMs.
Russia has sold countless thousands to Moammar Gadhafi's regime over the years, mainly Strela-2s, also known as SA-7s. But it's not known had many Libya had when fighting broke out there.
This type of missile, known in military-speak as man-portable air defense systems, or manpads, were designed to shoot down military aircraft using heat-seeking or radar-base guidance systems.
The first weapons were produced in 1944 by the Germans, who adapted the ubiquitous 22mm Panzerfaust anti-tank rocket launcher for use against aircraft. It was called the Fliegerfaust.
The first missiles using infra-red guidance systems, such as the U.S. Redeye, were introduced in the 1960s. Laser-guided variants followed.
SAMs were first used by terrorists in the 1970s and they've taken a toll of civilian aircraft over the years, mainly during civil wars or insurgencies.