The controlled destruction of 1,000 Ukrainian shoulder-fired missiles was completed on September 20, the U.S. State Department says.

      The destruction of these arms, formally known as man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), took place outside the city of Shostka, Ukraine, according to a September 21 State Department announcement.

      This is only the first installment in a project to destroy weapons and munitions that will take 12 years to complete.

      Ukraine is collaborating with NATO as part of a Partnership for Peace Trust Fund initiative. It is the largest multilateral project of its kind, according to the announcement.

      The Partnership for Peace program (PfP) involves practical bilateral cooperation between individual countries and NATO. It allows PfP countries to establish an individualized relationship with the alliance, choosing their own priorities for joint cooperation ventures.

      The State Department identified two reasons for Ukraine`s decision to pursue this project:

      • Several major explosions of unstable ordnance in Ukrainian munitions depots; and

      • The need to prevent weapons and munitions from falling into the hands of illicit arms traffickers, criminals or terrorists.

      The threat from MANPADS is very real. The State Department estimates that since the 1970s more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS, causing about 25 crashes and over 600 deaths around the world. (See related article.)

      Also scheduled to be destroyed during the first phase of this NATO-Ukraine project are 15,000 tons of excess and unstable munitions, including ammunition for automatic weapons, artillery shells, mortar rounds and 400,000 small arms and light weapons. The aim of the project, when complete, is to destroy safely 1.5 million small arms and light weapons, and 133,000 tons of munitions.