It’s been more than 120 days since the beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Many geopolitical pundits, defence experts, administrators, veterans, etc., have opined their thoughts on the ongoing fight. Some of the major observations are on Battle Tanks, Combat drones, and MANPADS.

Some say Tanks are now obsolete in modern warfare since they are at the receiving end of the destruction, which is evident from the devastation of tanks in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War and the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.  Around 432 Tanks, Armored fighting vehicles, Infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled anti-tank missile systems of Armenian forces were either destroyed, damaged, or captured compared to just 158 of Azerbaijan[1].

The Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict also brought the spotlight on Combat drones, especially the Bayraktar drones. Azerbaijan made effective use of these Turkish-made drones to turn the tide of the conflict. Ironically after 20 months, the same pattern of casualties is being observed in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, such as the likes of the destruction of Russian Tanks and the use of combat drones (incidentally the same Bayraktar’s) by Ukrainians. So yeah, the two major observations i.e., Tanks are becoming obsolete in modern warfare and Combat drones are the future of warfare, are kind of true.

Some may disagree with the fact that Tanks are not completely outdated, maybe Russia would have made a tactical mistake by sending a large number of Tanks before gaining air dominance, also may be poor planning and logistics[2]. But the use of Combat drones in warfare has seen advantages because at the end of the day one doesn’t lose anything when compared to Fighter aircraft or Helicopters.

Ukraine’s vigorous defence is all about the Shoulder fired missiles whether it is Anti-Tank missiles or Air missiles.  However, the most impactful and game-changing equipment being aided by western countries which Ukraine is employing to its best in resisting the Russian offensive are MANPADS. Remember the Soviet-Afghan war likewise, MANPADS are back to haunt the Russians again. 

Why MANPADS are indispensable?

MANPADS are lightweight and portable Surface-to-air missiles. These missiles can be fired from a ground vehicle, stand/tripod, or even from shoulder support.  They provide rapid point defence against low-flying aircraft. Portability and affordability make MANPADS indispensable.

Russia is not utilizing its Air force to its fullest, maybe because it is facing a shortage of precision guided munitions, or maybe Russia is holding these munitions as a reserve to fight future conflict with a stronger adversary, this may be compelling the Russian air force to fly at low altitude or maybe even Russia is trying to evade the Ukrainian Radars[3] [4]. There can be many theories behind Russia employing low-flying tactics. But undoubtedly, MANPADS is giving a headache to the Russian air force.

Now, let’s compare some well-known MANPADS around the world. From the initial observations, we are excluding the ‘Mistral’ missile (France) and ‘RBS 70’ (Sweden) as they look not portable as they require a stand for launching. our basis of comparison is a shoulder-fired as it provides rapid deployment and action. Also, we are excluding ‘Misagh-2/3’ (Iran), ‘QW-1 Vanguard’ (China), and ‘FN -16’ (China) as not much data is available, and ‘Grom’ (Poland) is not considered in our comparison, since we will be comparing its successor i.e., ‘Piorun’ and ‘Type-91’ (Japan) as it is similar to Stinger missile systems of USA. let’s analyze and try to decipher the best ones. The criterions for these systems would be based on their dimensions, weight, speed, firing range, target altitude and guidance system.

Largely all MANPADS are quite similar from the above comparison. Since the purpose of MANPADS is simple, lightweight, and rapid short air defence. Therefore, there are not many distinctive variations among these missiles. The typical specifications are length (1.2m to 1.8m), diameter (7cm to 10cm), weight (12kg to 20kg), speed (Mach.1 to 4), Range (5km to 8km), Altitude (3km to 6km) and Guidance system being infrared homing, optical and laser detection systems.

In this article, we have understood how shoulder-fired missiles i.e., either anti-tank or Surface-to-air missiles are helping Ukraine to their very existence. India needs to self-interrogate about indigenous MANPADS, won’t these systems make us self-reliant if we are producing them with our indigenous technology. Although recently India purchased Soviet/Russian Igla-S shoulder-fired missiles[15].But, where are we with our indigenous efforts? of such an indispensable system.



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Article by DINESH BEHARA , cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or