Although verifying the exact losses sustained by Russia and Ukraine is challenging, compelling evidence suggests that the Russian military has suffered substantial reductions in terms of Fighter jets, helicopters, and drones. The success of Ukraine can be credited to its effective deployment of manned portable air defense systems.
These lightweight shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles proved highly effective in neutralizing airborne threats flying at low to medium altitudes. Ukrainian forces received a substantial influx of these man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) from over a dozen countries, significantly boosting their air defenses.
Today, we’ll explore the Top 10 Powerful MANPADS of Ukraine
10. Strela 2
When ranked in ascending order based on range, the Strela 2 occupies the 10th position. This Cold War-era missile system was manufactured in large numbers for the Soviet Union and its allies. Despite the availability of newer systems, the Strela 2 remains in service in many countries and has been widely used worldwide. The Strela 2 was introduced in 1970 and weighs approximately 33 pounds. It has a maximum range of 2.6 miles and can engage aerial threats at an altitude of 1.4 miles.
9. Strela 3
Up next at number nine is Strela 3, which is an upgraded variant of Strela 2. Introduced in 1974, this MANPADS brought significant improvements over its predecessor. This advanced system exhibits superior resistance to jamming and decoy flares, allowing it to track cooler targets over extended ranges and engage maneuvering targets with exceptional precision. It weighs around 35 pounds and has a maximum range of 2.8 miles. It can engage aerial threats at an altitude of 1.9 miles.
Ranked at number eight, Grom entered the scene in 1995. Its name is derived from the Polish word for thunder. It’s based on the Soviet-made Igla MANPADS. It’s armed with a 72-millimeter anti-aircraft missile, a single-use launcher, a grip stock, and a coolant unit. It weighs 36 pounds and utilizes an infrared homing guidance system. This system has an operational range of 3.4 miles and can engage targets at altitudes of 2.2 miles.
At number seven is Igla, another Soviet-era surface-to-air missile system that entered service in 1981. Based on the Strela family, it features an improved rocket motor and seeker system. These upgrades improve its ability to counter agile aircraft and effectively handle modern infrared countermeasures. This MANPADS weighs around 39 pounds, making it easy to transport and deploy in various combat scenarios. The Igla has a sophisticated guidance system, enabling it to track and engage aerial targets accurately. It has a maximum range of 3.7 miles and can intercept airborne threats at altitudes of 2.2 miles.
At number six, we have Piorun, which derives its name from the Polish word for Thunderbolt. The missile is based on the Grom system produced by the MESKO company in 2019. This MANPADS underwent significant enhancements to increase its detection sensitivity of the warhead and engagement of targets at extended distances.
It’s resistant to electronic jamming and can engage targets at night. Weighing around 36 pounds, this Polish MANPADS offers portability and easy deployment for troops. It features an advanced infrared homing system with an argon-cooled seeker, ensuring precise target tracking and engagement. With a maximum range of four miles, it effectively neutralizes airborne threats at considerable distances. It’s designed to engage targets at altitudes of up to 2.5 miles, providing comprehensive air defense coverage.
Ranked at number five is Starstreak. Thales Air Defense manufactures these short-range British MANPADS. It’s known for its exceptional speed, reaching more than 3,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest short-range surface-to-air missile on this list. The system utilizes advanced guidance technology for precise target tracking and engagement.
This British MANPADS paints its target with three laser beams, increasing the likelihood of hitting the target. Starstreak has been in service with the British army since 1997. Weighing around 31 pounds, it offers excellent portability and maneuverability. With a maximum range of 4.3 miles, it can hit targets as high as 4.3 miles.
Up next is the Mistral, a French short-range air defense system manufactured by MBDA. These missiles can also be mounted on vehicles, ships, and helicopters. It’s equipped with a friend-or-foe system and is operated by a two-person crew. Its seeker has a narrow field of view, ensuring the rejection of decoys and interference while maintaining precision in target engagements. Introduced in 1988, this MANPADS weighs around 43 pounds, with a maximum range of over 4.3 miles. It can engage targets at altitudes of up to 2.5 miles.
At number three, we have Sungar. Turkey introduced this system in 2022; however, Ukraine is still awaiting the delivery of these missiles. It’s armed with a high-explosive warhead for direct attacks and comes with a fire-and-forget mode. It can also be mounted on various platforms. These MANPADS can be launched simply by using voice commands and visual instructions. The missile is equipped with upgradable identification friend-or-foe instructions. With a maximum range of 5 miles, it can hit targets at an altitude of 2.5 miles.
At the number two spot is none other than America’s Stinger, arguably the most iconic MANPADS ever produced anywhere in the world. The first versions of the Stinger entered service in 1981, and several improved variants have been introduced since then. During the 1980s, the Stinger missiles played a pivotal role in the ultimate defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
The total weight of a Stinger is approximately 35 pounds. It utilizes an infrared homing guidance system to track and engage targets based on their heat signatures. With a maximum range of 5 miles, the Stinger can engage targets at considerable distances. The engagement altitude of the Stinger reaches up to 2.4 miles, enabling effective interception of aerial threats at significant heights.
1. RBS 70
At the number one spot, we have RBS 70, developed by Sweden in 1977. This MANPADS stands as a highly capable air defense solution. It’s armed with the RB-70 missile, also used in several other Swedish missile systems. It weighs around 33 pounds. The MANPADS utilizes a laser beam-riding missile as its guidance system, with a maximum range of 5.6 miles. It can neutralize targets at significant distances. The engagement altitude of the RBS 70 reaches up to 3.1 miles, effectively allowing it to intercept airborne threats at significant heights.
The delivery of newer MANPADS such as the Stinger, Mistral, and Starstreak, along with the effective usage of older systems, has proven to be crucial in downing Russian aircraft and deterring further attacks. As the conflict evolves into urban warfare, the importance of MANPADS in Ukraine’s defense strategy will continue to rise.