The public has paid only little attention to the threat of ‘Man-Portable Air Defence Systems’ (MANPADS) against aviation security. MANPADS are cheap, efficient, portable, and simple to use. They are easily accessible on the international arms markets and thus an ideal ‘poor man’s weapon’ for asymmetric conflicts since they can be used offensively with a devastating effect. In 2004, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) listed over forty MANPAD incidents against civil aircraft, more than half of which were successful, resulting in almost 600 casualties.
In the last years, a wave of resolutions and decisions about MANPADS were taken in several international organizations and other fora. Many measures undertaken by States, airlines, and airport operators are kept confidential. This article gives a general overview of these technical and regulatory measures and the underlying rationale of the actors. At the same time, it provides an insight into decentralized international rule making of a subject matter, which States feel compelled to act upon, but for reasons of their own national defence, they do not agree on an internationally legally binding agreement.Air and Space Law