Skip Navigation Linksposts

Conflict Zones Risk Information


Risks and threats posed to civil aviation operations over or near conflict zones

The principal weapons of concern for these purposes are those Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) with the capability of reaching aircraft at cruising altitudes (which for these purposes are taken to be altitudes in excess of 25,000 feet above ground level). These are large, expensive and complex pieces of military equipment, which are designed to be operated by trained personnel.


There are many different types of systems, with varying capabilities and technologies, but they are all designed to track and destroy military targets in flight. In this context, civil aircraft – due to their size, speed and predictable flight paths – represent a possible target. Many SAMs are mobile and can be moved quickly between locations. Some have radar systems integrated; others need to be linked to a separate radar system to identify targets. Many SAMs are located on warships.

There are examples of attacks against civil aviation using Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS), and none since 2007. This remains a potential method of attack, particularly in areas of the world where MANPADS are readily available. It is also a possible method of attack anywhere in the world, given potential MANPADS proliferation. The principal civil aviation target for this type of attack is a large passenger aircraft that is airborne, whether during take-off or landing, or in mid-flight at lower altitudes.

The risk factors (and mitigations) associated with an unintentional attack using air-to-air missiles launched by a military aircraft, due to misidentification of civilian aircraft flying in combat zones or zones of high tension/sensitivity, would be broadly similar to those for SAMs, except that:

a) military aircraft are less likely to be available to non-State actors; and

b) military pilots are considered less likely to misidentify a civilian aircraft as a military target.


States' own source of information related to risks to civil aviation

Share this page: