The Taliban are said to have deployed heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles in Afghanistan. The Telegraph reports that an American C-130 Hercules transport was brought under attack on July 22.
It closed in on the large C-130 aircraft, pursuing it as the pilots launched a series of violent evasive manoeuvres and jettisoned flares to confuse the heat sensors in the nose of the missile. Crew members said that they saw what they believe was a missile passing very close to the aircraft. The C-130 was not damaged in the attack.
NATO will neither admit nor deny the attack but a surface-to-air missile alert has been issued to all Western aircraft flying in the southwest region of Afghanistan.
The recent attack was probably with an SA7 shoulder-launched missile, an elderly model of Soviet or Chinese origin. Though relatively primitive they are still a potent weapon, particularly against low-flying helicopters, such as the workhorse Chinook transporters used by British forces in the southern Helmand province.
In April members of the Special Boat Service operating in Nimroz province intercepted several truck loads of weapons coming across the Iranian border, including a working SA7 missile. It was one of a number of recent weapon caches that Western officials claim have been seized on the border with Iran, fuelling allegations by Britain and America that Iran, or elements within the Iranian government, have begun supplying arms to the Taliban.
Hundreds of SA7 missiles disappeared into the black market in Iraq in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein, where they have since been used to shoot down dozens of helicopters and aircraft, reportedly including a British C-130 in 2005.