Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) are among the many types of weapons being supplied in large by Western countries to the Ukrainian armed forces in the current conflict
The most famous, both abroad and in Russia, were FIM-92 Stingers, which were supplied to the Afghan Mujahideen who fought against the local government and the Soviet troops supporting it. The CIA delivered them as part of a wider effort, Operation Cyclone, and the exact number of missiles delivered remains unknown: we can confidently talk about more than 2,000 missiles.
In the most biased Western expert opinions, the US efforts are credited with a decisive contribution to the victory of the Mujahideen. However, this statement does not stand up to criticism, if only because the combat use of the Stingers in the Afghan war began in the second half of 1986, when the Afghan government, on Moscow's insistence, had begun large-scale negotiations with the radical opposition, and the Soviet leadership itself gradually curtailed all its efforts in Afghanistan. While supplies played a certain role, of course, in raising the morale of the militants and complicating the actions of Soviet aviation, the outcome of the war and even its time frame would probably have been the same without them.
After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the Americans had to spend years searching for and retrieving unused MANPADS that had begun to circulate around the world, the number of which, according to some estimates, exceeded six hundred, and far from all were found and taken back (or redeemed, taken away or destroyed). Former Afghan Stingers were used in the 1990s, at the very least, in the civil wars in Tajikistan and Sri Lanka, as well as probably by illegal gangs in Chechnya. It should be noted that at present, there is no clear certainty about the origin and number Stingers which were being used by groups of bandits in both Chechen wars; we can only say with certainty that it was extremely small. They also found their way, in small numbers, to various groups in the Middle East, from the Kurds to Hezbollah. Fortunately for the Americans themselves, by the beginning of their own Afghan war, the MANPADS they had supplied in the late 1980s had passed all of their expiration dates (primarily for batteries).
In addition to their electric batteries, MANPADS featured an infrared homing head, which also require special small cylinders of liquid nitrogen, which immediately before launch cool the missile seeker. Like rockets and electric batteries, they naturally have an expiration date.
During the twenty-year US war in Afghanistan, only one unaccounted-for MANPAD is thought to have been used to shoot down an American helicopter with a significant degree of probability (on 30 May 2007, a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter was shot down).
A degree of uncertainty regarding the origin of Stingers is introduced by the fact that they weren’t just supplied to the Afghan Mujahideen during that time period. During the same period, the intransigent anti-communist Reagan Administration approved the supply of more than three hundred MANPADS to the Angolan organisation UNITA, which openly used terrorist methods in its guerrilla war. UNITA subsequently shot down at least several civilian aircraft (mostly L-100 Hercules transport planes). At the time of the start of deliveries, the organisation had a dubious reputation, since it claimed to have brought down a Boeing 737 with 130 passengers in 1983
which wasn’t enough for the Americans to stop supplies. In addition, a small number of MANPADS were received by the armed forces of Chad, after another Libyan intervention (in this case, the matter was, to put it mildly, the heavy attitude of the United States towards Gaddafi). In these cases, as in Afghanistan, American special services made efforts to return or eliminate stockpiles of MANPADS, but such measures were never completely successful.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States, and even other Western countries, seemed to be more cautious in the supplying of MANPADS to conflict zones. In particular, numerous requests from the Syrian “armed opposition” of all sorts were denied. The United States, which soon launched an air operation against ISIS (banned in Russia), had no illusions that a significant proportion of the weapons would quickly fall into the wrong hands and create future headaches. Moreover, the world's special services were especially attentive to the MANPADS arsenals that turned out to be ownerless, since “MANPADS-terrorism” became a common headache and fear. Fortunately, with the exception of a few successful attempts,
this could be avoided, largely due to the lack of large free and restless stocks in so-called “free circulation”.