Verba MANPADS – the best portable air defence system in the world


The Russian and Soviet made MANPADS have seen the battle in almost any conflict in the world during the last 20 years and they have proven to be quite effective on several occasions. Still, they have also shown several shortcomings that seriously undermined their effectiveness. The limitation in range and mass of the warhead was one aspect that has proven to be troublesome, but even more importantly, the communication system and issuing orders was even greater problem. Simply, the MANPADS snipers were hard to coordinate and that significantly undermined the effectiveness of these systems.

Led by these experiences the Russian military engineers started developing the new system called Verba (Willow) in order to overcome those shortcomings. The entire system is somewhat mysterious and shrouded in secrecy, but some basic characteristics are revealed lately.

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Since the first half of 2014 the Verba started entering the service of the VDV forces of the Russian army and this is when the system was first revealed to the public.

Basic characteristics

At the first glance, the Verba has little differences compared to the older and proven Igla MANPADS. It looks pretty much the same and it operates in similar way. Still, there are some differences that are making this system stand out amongst all similar systems in any army of the world.

First of all, the range, homing system, and the strength of the warhead are improved compared to the Igla SAM, but these differences are not the most important things concerning the Verba. The heart of the system is the new command and communication system integrated into the system.

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The orders are not issued via the phone or radio com system anymore. Each Verba MANPADS is integrated in the universal defence system and linked to the command post. Simply said, this means that there is no more need for verbal communication in traditional way. Each sniper is indicated on the tactical map at the command post and each sniper shares the battlefield awareness data with the others in an automatic way. This allows the commander to quickly determine the number of snipers engaging the target and to determine which of them are in the best position to engage the enemy. The order is issued quickly and precisely to the snipers who should carry out the attack. This shortens the response time from several minutes (which were the case with the previous systems of command) to only a few seconds. Since the aircraft are in the killing zone for a very short time, this allows the snipers to engage them in timely manner and to maximize their effectiveness.

Furthermore, each system is collecting the data about the enemy and shares it with the central command system. The guidance, engagement, and evaluation of the situation on the battlefield are unified so there is no need for the personal initiative. Also, this approach makes it possible to the even less experienced snipers to fully focus on a launch sequence and avoid mistakes.

There is a report that Verba MANPADS is responsible for shooting down the Ukrainian reconnaissance aircraft An-30 (some claims say An-26). This report is not fully reliable but concerning the altitude at which the aircraft is shot down, it is quite possible that this was the baptism of fire for the system.

The details concerning Verba are still pretty unclear but in the following period more details will be available. It is predicted that the system replaces Igla D in the VDV formations and after that it is expected to enter all units of the Russian armed forces. The future will show its full potential but at the time, it looks like this system will bring some new moments on the modern battlefield.