Military


9K338 9M342 Igla-S / SA-24 Grinch

According to a state department cable dated 14 February 2009, released via Wikileaks, the United States government had expressed concern to about the sale of the SA-24 Igla-S MANPADS to Venezuela, citing a fear that the weapons could be diverted to the FARC. It also expressed a concern that through FARC, the weapons could be further distributed, including to drug cartels in Mexico.

The Igla man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) are one of the best-selling arms. This system belongs to the second-generation MANPADS meeting most stringent requirements to combat effectiveness in harsh jamming environment. In 2004 the Russian army adopted the new MANPADS - Igla-S (sometimes called "Igla-Super") which is much more sophisticated and efficient in countering air threats. Serial production of the "Igla-S" ("Needle-S") portable antiaircraft missile complex (PAAMC) is conducted at the Degtyarev factory in the city of Kovrov. This newest PAAMC was awarded the State premium.

The "Igla-S" PAAMC by its capabilities is significantly superior to the "Igla" PAAMC, which entered service in 1983. The "Igla-S" tactical and technical characteristics enable it to destroy targets at altitudes up to 5-7 km. The limiting altitude of effective target destruction for the "Igla-S" complex is 3.5 km, according to Deputy Director General of the enterprise Vasily Russu. According to him, foreign customers also display serious interest in the "Igla-S" PAAMC.

In 1971 the USSR started development of a new generation man-portable air defence missile system (code-named "Igla"). The Igla MANPADS, as a whole, was to be developed by the Kolomna-based KBM machine-building design bureau headed by S.P.Nepobedimy, and the missile's thermal homing head - by the Leningrad-based LOMO optical-mechanical association headed by O.A. Artamonov.

Difficulties connected with the complexity of creating jam-resistant seeker ruined the timetable of the seeker's development. Therefore it was decided to take an interim decision and make a simplified version of the Igla system equipped with the seeker from the Strela-3 older-generation MANPADS.That Igla entered service on 11 March 1981. The genuine Igla was successfully tested in 1982 and entered service with the Soviet Army on 23 September 1983.

The Igla system boasts high jamming immunity attained thanks to excellent target selectivity against the man-made interference background. This advantageous capability was provided by a new dual-channel optical homing head with the logic unit for a true target selection against clutter. The development of the Igla MANPADS was awarded with the State Prize of the USSR.

In the 1990s the KBM continued improving the Igla MANPADS. As a result, a new Igla-S system entered service with the Russian Army in 2004. The most recent system is substantially more efficient than the Igla and the US Stinger MANPADS. The Igla-S is armed with the increased-weight warhead and a contact-proximity fuse. Its control algorithm ensures selection of the most optimal moment for the warhead's explosion as far as its effectiveness is concerned, both in the contact and non-contact modes. Besides, the Igla-S control system architecture is based on revolutionary (compared to the Igla) principles providing considerably improved missile accuracy. Designers and other specialists of the KBM and its subcontractors were awarded with the State Prize of Russia for the development and introduction into production of the Igla-S MANPADS.

On 13 August 2003 Hemant Lakhani, a British national born in India, was charged by the US Government with attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to sell arms without a license. Lakhani sought to arrange for the sale of at least another 50 anti-aircraft missiles to a cooperating witness, who was posing as a representative of a Somali terror organization. Two other defendants were arrested. Both of them helped in a planned money transfer that was part of the transaction.

The complaint states that during a video- and audio-taped meeting at a hotel overlooking Newark Airport in September 2002, Lakhani and the cooperating witness looked out and gestured at departing commercial aircraft. Lakhani allegedly said he understood the purpose of the sale was to shoot down an aircraft and cause economic harm to the United States - to "make one explosion ... to shake the economy."

The discussions continued about importation of the missile, and on Aug. 17, 2002, Lakhani said he understood that the buyer of the missile had wanted it for "the anniversary" - a reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. Three days later, Lakhani allegedly faxed the cooperating witness a document listing the price for an "Igla-S portable anti-aircraft missile complex," including a price breakdown between the missile and its launcher. In more recorded conversations during August 2002, Lakhani allegedly said the supplier was concerned that the deal for just one missile was "too risky," and that he had committed to the supplier that there would be a purchase of at least an additional 20 missiles.

The complaint further alleges that on or about July 12, 2003, Lakhani traveled to Moscow to meet with the suppliers and the government's cooperating witness. At a meeting two days later, Lakhani met with the witness and two officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), posing as the suppliers. The FSB officers showed Lakhani what appeared to be an actual surface-to-air missile, which was actually an unarmed replica. In subsequent meetings, Lakhani allegedly discussed payment arrangements and his desire to arrange a deal for the purchase of an additional 50 surface-to-air missiles.

The Igla-S (SA-24) is Russia's most advanced MANPADS and considered one of the most lethal portable air defense systems ever made. Starting in 2005 the US Government raised its concerns with the Government of Russia (GOR) about the Government of Venezuela's (GOV) possible acquisition of MANPADS and other conventional weapons. In particular, the US highlighted the risk these could be diverted to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or other regional terrorists and non-state actors.

Venezuela's tactical air defense inventory consists of 1970s-era Swedish (RBS-70) and 1980s-era French systems (Mistral), which are both crew-served systems. If the SA-24 transfer occurred, it would be Venezuela's first man-portable air defense weapon. The United States and Russia have been very involved in efforts to prevent the proliferation of MANPADS and strengthen controls over their export. Of particular concern is preventing the transfer of such systems into regions known to foster unreliable end-users. The US was concerned with Venezuela's ability to properly secure and safeguard small arms and light weapons (SA/LW). The US saw no indication that Venezuela was prepared to implement adequate physical security and stockpile management practices for such systems consistent with international standards.

In 2005, The US reiterated US concerns regarding arms sales to Venezuela during a meeting with Anatoliy Antonov, MFA Director for Disarmament and Security Affairs. Antonov said that he and his Department's experts had carefully considered the points the US had presented and had shared them with Russian services. Antonov stressed that there was no international restriction on selling arms, including MANPADS, to Venezuela. Russia recognized the US as a competitor in the international arms trade, with the motivation of restricting Russia's market access. Antonov said Russia respected the US right to determine US policy on arms sales to Venezuela, but added, "that is your decision, not ours; we have our own policy."

The U.S. and Russia have committed to enhancing the control of MANPADS to prevent their acquisition and use by non-state actors and the proliferation to countries that do not have strong export control and stockpile management procedures. During the US-Russia MANPADS Arrangement Expert Meeting in 2006, when the US raised this issue with regard to Venezuela, Russia offered no assurances that it would not sell Igla-S to the GOV. However, it was suggested that, if a transfer occurred, the system would likely be vehicle-mounted.

On November 19, 2008 the Russian News & Information Agency Novosti (RIA Novosti) reported that Rosoboronexport signed a major contract for the sale of Igla-S MANPADS to Venezuela. The media report also revealed that a manager of LOMO, a partner company in the production of Igla-S, stated that this implied the contract for the delivery of several hundred Igla-S MANPADS. At the end of January the US received reports that Venezuela had deployed ten Venezuelan specialists to Kolomna, Russia, to begin training on the Igla-S MANPADS. Reporting indicates that five of the ten specialists were to take part in Igla-S equipment acceptance inspections, sometime in the last ten days of February 2009.

Russia advised that it had stringent end-use requirements (consistent with the Wassenaar guidelines) for such sales and requested more specific information on why the U.S. views this possible transaction as a risk. Information gleaned from FARC hard-drives obtained by the Colombian government in March 2008 indicated Venezuelan government officials had tried to facilitate black and gray arms market deals for the FARC. This information was widely disseminated in major mainstream international media outlets. More specifically, information on the hard-drives indicated specific discussions between the Government of Venezuela and FARC on the provision of MANPADS.

In light of Venezuela's relationship with the FARC, corruption within the Venezuelan military, and the US assessment that Venezuela's stockpile and security management practices do not meet international standards, the US was concerned there is a significant risk that these weapons could be diverted to the FARC. The US did not rule out the possibility that the transfer of the IGLA-S weapon system could displace and make available existing weapon systems for FARC's use. The US feared that should these sophisticated systems fall into the hands of the FARC, they could possibly be sold or traded to drug organizations, including those in Mexico, which are actively seeking to acquire powerful and highly sophisticated weapons for use against government forces. The U.S. was particularly concerned about this possibility because FARC's acquisition of MANPADS would constitute a new capability for the group to undermine peace and security in the region as well as threaten counter-narcotics operations in Colombia. Given these serious risks, the US had serious concerns about this transaction going forward.




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