Blowpipe was used by both sides during the Falklands War in 1982. With the targets being fast flying aircraft, flying low and using the ground to hide their approach the Blowpipe operator had about 20 seconds to spot the target, align the unit and fire. Brigadier Julian Thompson compared using the weapon to "trying to shoot pheasants with a drainpipe." The official report stated that of the 95 missiles fired by the British, only 9 managed to destroy their targets and all of these were slow flying planes and helicopters. A later report determined that only two kills could be attributed to Blowpipe: A British Harrier GR3 (XZ972) attacked by Argentine Army special forces (Commandos Company), and an Argentine Aermacchi MB-339 (0766 (4-A-114)) during the Battle of Goose Green.
Blowpipe was found to be particularly ineffective when used to engage a crossing target or to chase a target moving rapidly away from the operator. The poor performance led to it being withdrawn from UK service. In 1986 some of the mothballed units were sent clandestinely to equip the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan . The system again proved ineffective, and was eventually supplanted by the US Stinger missile. While Blowpipe was available on the international arms market and therefore its origins were open to speculation, the Stinger was restricted, which at the time indicated a more open acknowledgment of Western support for the Mujahideen. Blowpipe missile systems are still being found in weapon caches as recently as June 2003 in Afghanistan .
The Canadian military took Blowpipe from storage to give some protection to their naval contribution to the 1991 Gulf war, although sheer age had degraded the weapons, and nine out of 27 missiles tested misfired in some way.
Guidance of the Blowpipe is initially semi-automatic with the missile gathered to the centre of the sight's crosshairs by the infrared optic atop the aiming unit. Two to three seconds after launch, missile guidance is switched to fully MCLOS mode, and the operator regains full control of the missile. The operator has to steer the missile all the way to its target manually via a small thumb Joystick. The operator can opt not to use autogathering when engaging low flying targets such as helicopters, but then has to super-elevate the launcher to ensure the missile does not hit the ground. Four flares in the tail of the missile make it visible in flight, first to the infrared optic, then to the operator. Detonation is either by proximity or contact fuse. In emergencies, the operator can end an engagement by the operator shutting off the power to the transmitter with the system switch, after which the missile will immediately self-destruct. The aiming unit can then be removed from the empty missile container and fitted to a new round.
In: Afghanistan, Arts and Entertainment, Other, Arts and Entertainment
Tags: SAM, Blowpipe, missile, in, the, Falklands, pucara, sea, dart, harrier, war
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