May 8, 2007: While the Somali Islamic courts controlled most of the country last year, they received several air shipments of weapons from Eritrea and Iran. Included were up to two hundred SA7 "Strela" portable air-to-air missiles. The SA7 has been around since the 1960s, and is still popular because it remains potent against non-military transports. The SA7 is unable to deal
well with decoys or the other types of countermeasures that are so common on military aircraft.Â
The SA7 is about 4.6 feet long, weighs 33 pounds and has a max range of 3.2-4.2 kilometers (depending on the model). It can't hit anything above 6,000 feet and has a warhead of 3-4 pounds (again, depending on the model). Against larger transports, it will more likely damage than destroy. But one and two engine commercial aircraft, and helicopters, are very vulnerable.Â
As many as ten of these missiles were fired at transports and helicopters late last year. One transport crash landed, while a helicopter was shot down. Most of the missiles are still out there, either for sale, or being held for use in the continuing Somali civil war.
Over 50,000 SA7 missiles have been built since the 1960s, and copies of the SA7
design are still produced by some countries (like China), mainly for use by
irregular forces.Â Russian firms offer refurbishment and upgrades for older