MANPADS Proliferation Reduction by Design: On Countermeasures and Kill Switches (Issue Brief 11)

Gregory L. Tarr
Issue Brief

Concerns about the diversion and misuse of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) have led to calls for the development of devices to minimize the risk of their unauthorized use by non-state actors.

Such devices are often referred to as ‘technical-use controls’—technologies that prevent anyone other than those with the legitimate authority from using a weapon. The development and universal deployment of such devices could significantly reduce black market activity involving MANPADS. 
However, it appears that no MANPADS as yet incorporate secure technical-use controls. The apparent lack of progress in developing and installing such controls could be because they are perceived to be not technically feasible. It remains unclear whether MANPADS can be designed or modified to reduce the possibility of diversion to parties other than the intended recipients without impeding operational effectiveness, or to incorporate a ‘kill switch’ that prevents unauthorized use. 
A new Issue Brief, MANPADS Proliferation Reduction by Design: On Countermeasures and Kill Switchesaddresses these questions by examining several use-control technologies and the administrative, engineering, logistical, and strategic issues associated with installing and using them in MANPADS. 
The report reveals several options for incorporating technical-use controls into current and future MANPADS designs. As MANPADS Proliferation Reduction by Design explains, however, developing controls that address the threat to civilian aircraft posed by MANPADS without reducing their viability as air-defence weapons is a complex undertaking, and the administrative, bureaucratic, logistical, and technological barriers to accomplishing this goal are likely to be significant.

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Keywords: MANPADS Proliferation