View Full Version : Experts fear SA-7 missile poses threat to airliners

30th Nov 2002, 05:24
"National Post"

Experts fear SA-7 missile poses threat to airliners
Cheap, easy to use, it is a terrorist's weapon of choice
Isabel Vincent
National Post

Friday, November 29, 2002
CREDIT: The Associated Press

The anti-aircraft missiles used in yesterday's thwarted attempt to down an Israeli airliner in Kenya have long been a favourite weapon among terrorist groups because they are cheap, easy to use and can hit a target nearly 4,000 metres in the air.

The Strela-2M -- codenamed the SA-7 Grail by NATO -- is the Russian-manufactured version of the U.S. "Stinger" missile, which was supplied by the CIA to mujahedeen warriors fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

Experts say the SA-7, which is a shoulder-held heat-seeking missile, can easily be used against unprotected airliners during takeoff and landing. The weapon, also manufactured in China, Pakistan, and Egypt, works by locking on to the heat generated by an aircraft's engines, and is currently a weapon of choice among terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Chechen rebels.

The SA-7, which can be fired by one person but it is considered more effective when handled by two, has historically proven most useful against helicopters and other low-flying military aircraft. First built in the late 1960s, SA-7s were used against U.S. helicopters in the Vietnam conflict until crews found a way to vent the exhaust so the missile would not attach itself to the heat source.

The SA-7s were also used by Arab states during the Yom Kippur war against Israeli Skyhawks. Although SA-7s are limited in their ability to inflict heavy damage on a heavy-frame airplane unless they score a direct hit, they are effective when used in the anticipated path of an attacking jet aircraft, forcing the pilot to abandon the attack run and fly to higher altitudes. Military experts say the use of the weapon during the Yom Kippur war thwarted numerous Israeli air strikes.

Earlier this year Saudia Arabian authorities said they had arrested members of a terrorist network that had used an SA-7 to try and knock down U.S. military aircraft at the Prince Sultan airbase outside Riyadh.

Eleven Saudis, a Sudanese and an Iraqi man were arrested after a scorched and empty launcher was found near the base.

As with the Saudis, yesterday's attack missed its target, a fact that puzzled experts. The two missiles appear to have been fired from the optimum position -- behind the airliner and into its two red-hot engine exhausts. The missiles also appear to have been operating within their maximum range of 3,600 metres and altitude of 2,300 metres.

There have been rumours for some time that Israeli airliners are equipped with missile detectors and counter-measures such as high-energy flash guns to frustrate missile attacks, but there was little evidence of any such devices being used yesterday.

Nonetheless, authorities fear that because of its portability and range, the SA-7 may begin to pose a serious threat to commercial airlines. To use the weapon in a potential attack against an airliner, a terrorist can be more than a kilometre from the airport, away from any security checks. "Obsolete or not, an SA-7 rolled up in a carpet in the back of a van will remain the worst nightmare of every modern day airport security officer for the foreseeable future," said one military analyst who did not want to be identified.

An SA-7 was responsible for downing the airplane that killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994, the event that triggered the Rwandan massacre.

The missile's popularity among terrorist groups is worrying many in the airline industry who are exploring ways in which commercial airliners could fend off potential SA-7 attacks. Equipping a commercial airline with a device that could repel such a missile could cost as much as US$3-million per plane.

The American version of the SA-7, the Stinger, was responsible for shooting down more than 200 Soviet aircraft in Aghanistan in the 1980s. At the time, the CIA issued up to 4,000 Stingers to their mujahedeen allies who were fighting the Soviets in the region. At the end of the war, the spy agency offered to buy back the weapons for US$30,000 each. However, only 70 were ever returned.


Country of origin: Russia

U.S. code name: SA-7

NATO code name: Grail

Russian Designation: Strela

Development Year: 1959

Deployment Year: 1967

Length: 1.44m

Body Diameter: 7.2cm

Launch Weight: 9.20kg

Warhead: 1.15kg HE fragmentation effect

Guidance: Heat seaking

Propulsion: Solid

Range: 3,600m

1st Dec 2002, 06:44
Amazing! Not one reply.

Obviously the proposed QF/NZ alliance is more danger to you skippies than any heatseeker.
;) ;) ;) ;) :p

1st Dec 2002, 08:36
its not really of much of an issue for australia or nz...

1st Dec 2002, 09:24
youre right aussie bert...there's no chance of terrorism effecting aussies and kiwis!!!!!!!!

.....engage brain son!

let me think of a senario??????? rowing boat off kuta beach, nutcase with SAM7...... of course it could never effect aussies & kiwis.

.....vote for the "head-in-the-sand" party did we?????

Bon Giorno
1st Dec 2002, 10:49
"its not really of much of an issue for australia or nz..."

aussiebert - I'm speechless!

It's a troll - right?

1st Dec 2002, 14:53
ABC News online

Posted: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 1:03 AEDT

Anti-missile technology may have saved Kenya flight: expert

Two shoulder-fired missiles, which nearly brought down an Israeli charter flight over Kenya, were probably deflected by detection technology onboard the Arkia plane.

Israeli strategy expert Hirsh Goodman says 10 years ago it was reported that all planes belonging to Israeli carrier El Al were equipped with anti-missile technology in response to a botched attack on a plane in the mid-1970s.

One of the deadliest anti-Israeli attacks ever was narrowly averted on Thursday when two Russian-made Strela missiles just missed a Boeing 757, which was carrying 261 Israeli tourists from Mombasa to Tel Aviv.

"I can't guarantee the Arkia plane was equipped with that technology but I don't believe in miracles," Mr Goodman said.

Captain Rafi Malek, the pilot of the targeted plane, said: "We saw two white stripes coming up behind the aircraft, slightly above it, and moving from the back to the front and then disappearing after a few seconds."

The pilot's statement appears to support Mr Goodman's theory that the missiles might have been deflected by some kind "heat sensing system", which detected and diverted them by firing flares.

Capn Bloggs
2nd Dec 2002, 07:37
'cuse me but can somebody provide details of the new tail gunner installation in the 757? Capn Malek saw two white stripes coming up behind the aircraft...last time I looked behind me and low all I saw was the tech log and a fire extinguisher! He must have got a call from his tail gunner...was there a male FA in the back??

Well, it sounds like the 146 will have an extended career: their engines don't produce any heat, so SA-7s will be useless against them eh!

Empty field myopia
2nd Dec 2002, 11:35
Everyone should be worried.

I was just watching the lineup of a/c landing on 27R at heathrow.

Stretched back 15 miles over central London!!

Plenty of places to hide, plenty of targets, plenty big mess!!!

From 7000' it is quite hard to distinguish Air NZ/ Qantas from El Al or United!!

Do what the fishes do, Safety in numbers!!!

Lowers the odds it'll be you ;)

3rd Dec 2002, 06:20
My understanding is the Stingers issued to Afghan "patriots" during the campaign would be pretty much useless now anyway...batteries dead (and they don't use "D" cells), heat-seakers ageing and slightly on the decrepit side etc etc etc. Sometimes a limited shelf-life (or "Fire before date") ain't such a bad thing after all.

The SA-7s are a worry though. Welcome to the 21st century. I suggest you fasten your seat-belts firmly...it's going to be a bumpy ride.:(

3rd Dec 2002, 06:28
All this discussion seems to be derived from the idea that there is a state called safe. It does not exist and never has.

Natural phenomena wipe out cities and communities; volcanoes, tsunamis, cyclones etc.

Man-made destruction is merely more creative. Has everyone forgotten Bhopal?

Missiles, bricks, rockets whatever can be aimed at an aircraft and possibly bring it down. What about a well aimed Piper warrior? There is no ultimate defence, it doesn't exist. I bet the BN & ML guys are nervous, all that infrastructure in one building with no duplication.

The difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist is politics.

Capn Bloggs
3rd Dec 2002, 11:36

You can't accuse Dick Smith of being a terrorist!!

Te he.