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Armed groups' holdings of guided light weapons

The increasingly sophisticated arsenals of guided light weapons held by non-state actors pose an international security threat. Small Arms Survey research indicates that since 1998 at least 84 armed groups from 40 countries either possess or have possessed such systems. Around half of these groups are reported to be active.

These include man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs)—systems operable by a single user or a small crew, where the weapons’ missiles are either manually targeted or self-guided after launch. Such systems have been used by armed groups to attack commercial airlines, military aircraft, and governmental targets, as well as to degrade military and peacekeeping operations.

The Research Note Armed Groups and Guided Light Weapons: 2014 Update with MENA Focus presents new information added to the Survey’s database since its last update in March 2013. It describes global patterns in the guided light weapons holdings of armed groups, noting both the types of weapons held and their relative sophistication. It has a particular focus on patterns of proliferation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Armed groups’ reported holdings: global update

Since the previous assessment, the Survey recorded 25 new groups as having either MANPADS or ATGWs, raising the worldwide total to 61 active groups. More than half of these newly listed groups are based in Syria. Guided light weapons were reported in the hands of armed groups in Tunisia (al-Qaeda affiliates) and Ukraine (pro-Russian separatists) for the first time.

Armed groups can obtain such systems through seizure, corruption, and the black market. The collapse of the Qaddafi regime in Libya, which held significant stockpiles of guided weapons, is one of the significant cause of MANPADS proliferation in the region since 2011. Another source of guided light weapons for armed groups is the transfer from state sponsors.

The table below lists all new reports of ATGWs and MANPADS held by non-state armed groups since the previous update in March 2013. All these groups are currently active. This update complements the previous listing of armed groups' holdings of guided light weapons for 1998 – 2013. A consolidated database, covering the entire period from 1998 to present, will soon be made available. The database remains a work in progress. (See Note B for discussion of some of the methodological concerns.)

Armed Group Guided Weapon Update
Region Country Active non-state armed groups Weapon
type*
Weapon model**
Africa Sudan Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Army–North (SPLMA-N) A
HJ-8
Europe Ukraine Pro-Russian separatists A
9K111 Fagot (AT-4 'Spigot')
9K115 Metis (AT-7 'Saxhorn')
9K135 Kornet or Kornet E (AT-14 'Spriggan')
M
9K32 Strela-2 or 2M (SA-7a or b 'Grail')
PZR Grom
MENA Egypt Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Ansar Jerusalem) M
9K310 Igla 1 or 9K38 Igla (SA-16 'Gimlet'/SA-18 'Grouse')
Sinai Bedouins unspecified
Iraq
Peshmerga
A
MILAN
Iraq/Syria Ansar al-Islam
A
TOW
M
9K310 Igla 1 or 9K38 Igla (SA-16 'Gimlet'/SA-18 'Grouse')
Islamic State (IS)  A
9K11 Malyutka (AT-3 'Sagger')
9K135 Kornet or Kornet E (AT-14 'Spriggan')
M
9K310 Igla 1 or 9K38 Igla (SA-16 'Gimlet'/SA-18 'Grouse')
9K32 Strela-2 or 2M (SA-7a or b 'Grail')
FN-6
Libya Ansar al-shariaa  M
9K32 Strela-2 or 2M (SA-7a or b 'Grail')
Rebel groups, Tripoli A
9K11 Malyutka (AT-3 'Sagger')
Palestinian Territories Al-Ansar Brigades  M
9K32 Strela-2 or 2M (SA-7a or b 'Grail')
Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades A
Bulsae-2 (North-Korean-produced/designed 9K111 Fagot (AT-4 'Spigot')
M
9K32 Strela-2 or 2M (SA-7a or b 'Grail')
Islamic Resitance  Movement (Hamas/ al-Qassam Brigades) A
Bulsae-2 (North-Korean-produced/designed 9K111 Fagot (AT-4 'Spigot')
Syria Ahfad Al-Rasul A
9K111-1 or 1M Konkurs (AT-5a or b 'Spandrel')
Al-Asala Watanmya M
9K310 Igla 1 or 9K38 Igla (SA-16 'Gimlet'/SA-18 'Grouse')
9K32 Strela-2 or 2M (SA-7a or b 'Grail')
9K338 Igla-S (SA-24 'Grinch')
FN-6
Al-Omari Brigades of the Syrian Revolutionary Brigade A
TOW
Brigades Ibn Taymiyyah M
9K310 Igla 1 or 9K38 Igla (SA-16 'Gimlet'/SA-18 'Grouse')
Daraa Revolution Commission M
FN-6
Durou al-Thawra M
FN-6
Firket Fajr el Islam A
TOW
Free Syrian Army (FSA)–Knight of the Right Brigade (Morek) M
9K32 Strela-2 or 2M (SA-7a or b 'Grail')
FSA-Farouq Brigade (Harakat Hazm 9th Unit) M
9K338 Igla-S (SA-24 'Grinch')
FSA-Liwa al-Aadiyat A
TOW
FSA (several locations and sub-groups) A
HJ-8
FSA-Yarmouk Brigades  A
TOW
Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya
A
HJ-8
MILAN
Harakat Hazm A
TOW
M
9K310 Igla 1 or 9K38 Igla (SA-16 'Gimlet'/SA-18 'Grouse')
Jabhat al-Nusra A
MILAN
Kataib al-Qasas M
FN-6
Liwa al Mouhajirin wal Ansar A
MILAN
Liwa al-Haqq A
MILAN
Syrian Revolutionary Front—Ansar al-Sunna A
9K135 Kornet or Kornet E (AT-14 'Spriggan')
Tunisia al-Qaeda affiliates in Tunisia M
9K32 Strela-2M (SA-7b 'Grail')

Notes:
* Weapon types: A = anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW); M = man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS)
** System designation with NATO reporting name in bracket


 

For additional information and to report holding not yet listed, please contact Small Arms Survey Senior Researcher Matt Schroeder:
matt.schroeder
@smallarmssurvey.org

Any enquiries and information provided would be kept confidential.


Notes

Note A. This table is the product of desk research conducted by the Small Arms Survey, based on a wide range of reports, press statements, and personal correspondences with acknowledged experts in the field of proliferation, light weapons, conflicts, and non-state armed groups. It is a consolidated version of a table previously published in Small Arms Survey 2008: Risk and Resilience (Berman and Leff, 2008, pp. 32-33).

Note B.

Despite careful examination of the sources used to report guided light weapons possession by non-state armed groups, there are numerous pitfalls in such research: journalists and government sources may not always accurately report the groups’ names or the type of weapons used or found (for instance, a non-guided rocket is sometimes misidentified as an anti-tank guided missile). Increasingly, armed groups are themselves posting pictures and videos of their holdings online, consolidating somehow our knowledge on their arsenal; but such sources have also pitfalls. Some groups may share weapons and several groups may publish several pictures/videos with the same, shared weapons; other could steal existing pictures of groups holding guided weapons and simply add their names/logo on the footage. Additionally, even when the possession of guided weapon is confirmed, one cannot assume that such holding means that the systems could actually be used: the weapons may be old and out of use; and their operation requires multiple components that may not be available to their owners. In this respect the data presented in these tables cannot be considered as incontestable evidences or an accurate picture of the current threat posed by armed groups possessing guided missiles. Rather, the study should be seen as an informed estimate of portable missiles possessions by non-state armed groups since 1998. For a more detailed account on the methodology followed, see Rigual, 2013b.

Selected sources

Baartz, Samuel et al. Forthcoming. Guided Light Weapons in the Syrian Conflict. ARES Research Report No. 6. Perth: Armament Research Services (ARES).

Berman, Eric G. and Jonah Leff. 2008. ‘Light Weapons. Products, Producers, and Proliferation’. In Small Arms Survey 2008: Risk and Resilience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 6-41.

Binnie, Jeremie. 2014a. ‘Egyptian Militants Downed Helo with Igla-type MANPADS.’ IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. 28 January.

—. 2014b. ‘Islamic State Uses MANPADS against Iraqi Helo.’ IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 8 October.

Gibbons-Neff, Thomas. 2014. ‘Al-Qaeda Faction in Syria Claims to Have U.S.-supplied Anti-tank Weapon.’ The Washington Post. 15 December.

Jenzen-Jones, Nic. 2013. 'Did HJ-8E ATGWs in Syria originate in China'? The Hoplite, ARES Company Blog. 16 December. <http://www.armamentresearch.com/did-hj-8e-atgws-in-syria-originate-in-china/>

Lazarevic, Jasna. 2008. Guided Light Weapons Reportedly Held by Non-State Armed Groups (1996–2007). Unpublished background paper. Geneva: Small Arms Survey. February.

McQuinn, Brian. 2012. Armed Groups in Libya: Typology and Roles. Research Note No. 18. Geneva: Small Arms Survey. June.

Rigual, Christelle. 2013a. Armed Groups’ Holdings of Guided Light Weapons. Research Note No. 31. Geneva: Small Arms Survey. June.

Rigual, Christelle. 2013b. Guided Light Weapons Possession by Non-State Armed Groups: Mapping the Issue. Unpublished background paper, Geneva: Small Arms Survey. September.

Schroeder, Matt. 2007. ‘Appendix 14A. Global Effort to Control MANPADS’. SIPRI Yearbook 2007. Armament, Disarmament and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 623-639.

Schroeder, Matt and Benjamin King. 2012. ‘Surveying the Battlefield. Illicit Arms in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia’. In Small Arms Survey, Small Arms Survey 2012: Moving Targets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 312-355.

Schroeder, Matt. 2014. Fire and Forget: The Proliferation of Man-portable Air Defence Systems in Syria. Issue Brief No. 9. Geneva: Small Arms Survey. August.

UNSC (United Nations Security Council). 2012. Consolidated working document on the implementation of paragraph 5 of Security Council resolution 2017 (2011) 16 March 2012. S/2012/178 of 26 March.

—. 2012b. Final Report of the Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011) concerning Libya. S/2012/163 of 20 March.

—. 2014a. ‘The List Established and Maintained by the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee with Respect to Individuals, Groups, Undertakings and other Entities Associated with Al-Qaida.’ 12 December. <http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm#alqaedaent>

—. 2014b. Final Report of the Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1973 (2011) concerning Libya. S/2014/106 of 19 February.

Weiss, Caleb. 2014. ‘Al Nusrah Front uses American-made anti-tank missile in Idlib.’ The Long War Journal. 14 December. <http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/12/al_nusrah_front_ahrar_al_sham.php>

 
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