Stinger Missiles Supplied By
CIA Now Pose Threat To US
By Ian Bruce

Fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban have stockpiled between 100 and 200 American-supplied Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and are preparing to use them to ambush US special forces' helicopters.
The man-portable Stingers, provided by the CIA in 1981 to help the Afghan mujahideen counter the menace of Soviet helicopter gunships, have been distributed to units guarding key leaders and headquarters complexes in the caves of the Hindu Kush.
Military intelligence sources say the Stinger, a heat-seeking, "fire-and-forget" weapon, poses a major threat even to helicopters equipped with counter-measures such as magnesium flare dispensers.
Over hostile areas, both jets and helicopters launch the high-intensity flares to decoy heat-seeking missiles. But the Stinger is fitted with a microprocessor in its warhead designed to ignore decoys and home on engine radiation.
The Stinger's operator balances the 32lb launcher on his shoulder until a target comes into sight. When the aircraft enters the missile's range - out to two miles and up to 4800ft away - its "seeker head" emits a buzzing sound.
He then launches it and takes cover while it accelerates to more than 1000mph towards its victim's heat signature, the seeker providing course corrections en route.
The US MH53 Pave Low special forces' transport helicopter, the main assault vehicle in commando raids, carries up to 38 fully-equipped troops and six crewmen.
Its engines are shielded to reduce heat emissions, but it is impossible to eliminate the tell-tale radiation entirely. It shows up even more clearly over mountainous terrain, in darkness, or in cold weather.
The CIA provided the mujahideen with about 1000 Stingers in the early 1980s. The guerrilla fighters were trained to use them by Britain's SAS and former special forces' mercenaries operating out of bases in Pakistan.
The mujahideen, hardly the world's most sophisticated warriors, nevertheless managed to down 269 Soviet helicopters in 340 launches.
When the Russian forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the CIA offered a £35,000 bounty for every unused Stinger returned. But by that time, the weapons were selling for up to twice that amount on the international black market and few found their way back to the US.
They have since shown up in conflicts in Chechnya, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Lebanon, and among the Kurds fighting Turkish rule. Almost all are in the hands of terrorist or insurgent groups such as Hizbollah and the Tamil Tigers.
The beauty of the Stinger is that it is sturdy and simple to use, while having the ability to engage a jet or helicopter head-on. Most heat-seeking missiles have to home on the tail of a target to lock on to its engine emissions.
It is also fitted with a proximity fuse which will detonate the 7lb warhead and spray out lethal shrapnel if the aircraft tries a last-gasp evasion manoeuvre.
The US special forces support squadron lost an AC-130 Hercules Spectre gunship to a simple, shoulder-fired Russian Sam-7 missile over southern Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf war.
The lumbering aircraft, the same type used last week over Afghanistan, had been strafing survivors of a brigade-strength Iraqi armoured attack on Khafji, a resort town on the northern Saudi coast, the previous day. It was searching for a Frog missile launcher vehicle reported in the border area by US Marines.
It was twice ordered to break off the low-level hunt as dawn broke, but lingered slightly too long. It was struck by the Sam-7 between the fuselage and the inboard left engine.
The explosion sheared off the wing and the Spectre plunged into the Gulf, killing the five officers and nine other crewmen aboard.
A special forces' officer told The Herald: "Most modern helicopters come fitted with engine shielding, electronic countermeasures pods and automatic flare dispensers.
"It's a far cry from the 1980s, when the only defence against heat-seeking missiles was usually a crewman firing a flare-gun out of an open door at intervals.
"But the Stinger remains a major threat. Fired in salvoes of four or five at a time, it could overcome any decoy system.
"The Taliban only have to knock down one troop transport to produce 44 bodybags and a political crisis.
"If they took out two or three, it would certainly put a crimp in the coalition's raiding strategy and could end the hit-and-run policy entirely."


This Site Served by TheHostPros