Last week a CH-47 Chinook carrying 22 SEALs, 3 Air Force Air Controllers, and 7 Afghan Army troops was shot down by the Taliban over Afghanistan. Defense News reports that the Taliban shot down the helicopter with an RPG that struck the helicopter.
The report also says that the attack took place late August 5th, at night in other words. However, you have a better chance of finding Flight 19 with a fishing net than hitting a moving helicopter with an RPG, and there it is more likely that the Taliban used a MANPADS ( MAN Portable Air Defense System).
A MANPADS is a a small rocket similar to an RPG, but with an infrared guidance system that locks on to the exhaust from an aircraft engine. A MANPADS that most people might have heard of is the FIM-92 Stinger. The Stinger is the standard issue MANPADS of the U.S. military and several other countries.
The Mujaheddin (now known as the Taliban) who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s, received among other things Stinger MANPADS to shoot down Soviet helicopters with. By now the batteries in those missiles are long dead, and the equipment needed for their upkeep is impossible for the Taliban to get their hands on. Thus, this would point toward a new outside source for these weapons.
The first suspect to come to mind would be Iran, Iran has been caught before giving the Taliban weapons in the form of 122mm rockets that have a range of 13 miles. On top of this Iran is known to produce a MANPADS under the designations Misagh-1 & 2. Another possible source for MANPADS would be China, they are known to produce several types of MANPADS, and also shares a border with Afghanistan. Russia is also another possible supplier of MANPADS, but has no motive for this. Libya might also be the source for these missiles due to the fact that MANPADS have been stolen from Gaddafi armories several times, and no one knows where they are. Other more unlikely sources could be Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or even India, but these countries with the exception of Pakistan, have no reason to provoke the U.S. like this.
Until the military comes clean and admits that the Taliban is using MANPADS this is all pure speculation, but if true this poses an enormous risk to civilian and military air travel all over the world.
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force