Ever since the aviation became present on the battlefield the ground forces started developing the means to protect themselves from the aerial attacks. The modern era after the WW 2 has brought the rocketry and jet technology in both offensive and defensive segment of the aerial warfare. This resulted in various portable SAM systems that can be carried by the infantry and which provide protection to the men on the battlefield.
Without any doubt the Igla SAM is the most effective MANPADS system of this class. It is characterized by a high precision, compact design and low cost.
The soviets were amongst the first to develop the MANPADS systems. Their Strela 2 SAM was the first significant system of this kind but it had many flaws and wasn’t very efficient. So, they decided to upgrade it and parallel to create a completely new SAM system that will have a new guidance that is immune to decoys.
The development started in 1972 but it took them 11 years to finally create Igla MANPADS. In the meantime, they used the body of the Igla missile and combined it with the guiding system of the Strela 3 to create Igla 1 system. Since the 1983, the system has undergone several modernisations and adaptations so today it can be found in several versions and applications.
The first version that entered service was Igla 1, released in 1978. Later on, when the new guidance system was fully developed the Igla N with heavier warhead was released. The final version Igla S was delivered to the armed forces in 2004.
There are also several specialized versions. Igla D is specially designed for the VDV (paratroopers) units of the Russian federation, Igla E is an export version, and Igla V is a model designed to be mounted on various vehicles (mostly Russian gunships use them for the air defence purposes).
For many years this wasn’t considered to be the world’s best MANPADS system. There were some recorded success in Iraq (Panavia Tornado shot down), Rwanda and Bosnia (Mirage 2000D), but it has shown its full potential in Yugoslavia back in 1999 and this year in Ukraine.
The Yugoslav (Serbian) forces were using this MANPADS to fight Tomahawk cruise missiles and they made a stunning success. Even the old Strela 2s were used for this and it turned out that they can be very effective when operated by the experienced soldiers who know how to use them.
In Ukraine, the Igla simply decimated the Ukrainian air force. The shooting down of several SU-25 fighters and the IL-76 transport plane was impressive, but the fact that the pro-Russian forces managed to destroy 15 out of 24 helicopters the Ukrainian army had is a success that has no precedent. No other MANPADS system was so effective on any battlefield in the world.
The Russian army is currently deploying the new Verba MANPADS system to the army and this means that Igla will be slowly pulled out of service and offered on the market. The current price of 60000-80000 USD per system will be reduced and that will make it the most cost-effective MANPADS available on the market.