Terrorism & Insurgency

Egyptian militants downed helo with Igla-type MANPADS

28 January 2014
A still taken from a video released by militants show the MANPADS used in the 25 January attack has a similar BCU and dimensions to that of the Igla series. Source: Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis

Contrary to initial reports, the man-portable air defence system (MANPADS) used to shoot down an Egyptian military helicopter on 25 January was not a Strela-2 series (SA-7 'Grail'), but a more sophisticated missile system.

The Sunni radical group Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis released a video on 26 January showing an operative firing a MANPADS at an Mi-8/17 transport helicopter, which then crashes, but the front end of the system had been deliberately blurred in post-production to make it difficult to identify.

Egyptian sources reported that a 'SAM-7' (a derivative of the SA-7 designation) was used in the attack, which happened near the border with the Gaza Strip and killed five soldiers. The New York Times cited a senior US official as saying the preliminary evidence indicated it was a 9K32 Strela-2.

However, a single frame from the video taken as the operator ducks to avoid the dust caused by the main motor ignition shows the MANPADS he is holding has an angled battery coolant unit (BCU) like the ones used by the Russian 9K34 Strela-3 (SA-14 'Gremlin') Igla series rather than the horizontally aligned cylindrical battery used with the less advanced Strela-2 and -2M (9K32M).

Analysis of the video carried out by IHS Jane's shows the dimensions of the system's missile tube match those of the Igla series, but not the shorter and wider Strela-2, -2M and -3.

Strela-2s proliferated during the Libyan conflict in 2011 and some have probably been smuggled across Sinai to the Gaza Strip, where militants paraded the system last year. However, the effectiveness of the decades-old Libyan weapons is questionable.

In contrast, the Igla series - 9K310 Igla-1 (SA-16 'Gimlet'), 9K38 Igla (SA-18 'Grouse') and 9K338 Igla-S (SA-24 'Grinch') - is more advanced, but less common.

A spate of insurgent attacks involving Iglas followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but they have rarely been seen in militant hands since 2007. Although Libya had the vehicle-mounted version of the Igla-S, it does not appear to have bought any man-portable Iglas.

The dimensions of the MANPADS seen in the video also fit those of the Chinese QW-2, which also uses an angled non-cylindrical BCU similar to those of the Igla series. Iran's military uses this system or a locally built version, but is not known to have transferred it to militants based in the Gaza Strip.

(391 words)
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