U.S. Department of State: Quick Reaction Force

Ready to Help Avert or Respond to Emergencies Worldwide

A building destroyed by an explosion
This is the devastation the QRF found when it arrived in Brazzaville after the 2012 unplanned explosion there. Credit: DOS

The Quick Reaction Force (QRF) is a team of civilian explosive ordnance disposal experts that serves as the State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement's first responders to conventional weapons destruction emergencies worldwide, including munitions depot explosions, ammunition depots at risk of imminent explosions, and clearance of explosive remnants of war that present an imminent danger to civilians. These situations require fast action to secure or dispose of poorly guarded or unstable ammunition, prevent loss of life, protect critical infrastructure, and conduct needs assessments for further conventional weapons destruction help.

“The QRF is one of the more unique foreign assistance capabilities that the United States has to offer," remarks Karen Chandler, Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. "In a world where military depots are often directly adjacent to or even within communities with growing civilian populations, it has become tragically common for unplanned explosions of aging, insecure, or unstable ammunition to threaten many lives. The QRF’s ability to respond flexibly, with high levels of capability and speed, is unparalleled.”

Besides being ready to respond to catastrophic explosions, the QRF can also provide foreign governments with expert advice on proper physical security and stockpile management of their munitions, advice that can avert disasters. Director Chandler observes that "It's better for foreign governments, their citizens, and for the U.S. taxpayers, frankly, if the QRF is invited to advise on proper physical security and stockpile management, and for their advice to be followed, than it is for the QRF to respond after massive explosions have killed and injured innocent civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure."

The Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement's implementing partner for the QRF, is an American non-profit charity specializing in humanitarian demining, battle area clearance, physical security and stockpile management, and safely "harvesting" explosives to create affordable and effective "donor charges."


Since 2001, the QRF and its precursor, the Quick Reaction Demining Force, have deployed to:

  • Albania
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Guatemala
  • Iraq
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kiribati
  • Kyrgyz Republic
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Malawi
  • Marshall Islands
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Palau
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Solomon Islands
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Tuvalu
  • Ukraine
  • Uruguay
  • Vietnam

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The Interagency MANPADS Task Force

Building Partnerships to Protect Global Aviation

A missile sits on top of a wooden pallet
An anti-tank guided missile is inspected ahead of destruction. Credit: DOS

Why DO MANPADS MATTER? Since 1970, terrorists and other non-state actors have struck dozens of civilian aircraft with man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), often referred to as shoulder-fired missiles, killing over 1,000 civilians. MANPADS were first developed in the 1960s to help legitimate armed forces defend against air attacks. However, in the hands of terrorists, criminals, or other non-state actors, MANPADS pose a serious threat to civilian and military aircraft around the world. The effectiveness of MANPADS used by Ukrainian Armed Forces as they defend their country from Russia’s unprovoked invasion demonstrates their continued lethality in combat and serves as a reminder of why preventing illicit diversion remains critical.

WHAT IS A MANPADS? A MANPADS is typically a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile, consisting of a guided missile enclosed in a launch tube, a reusable trigger mechanism (“gripstock”), a single-use battery or battery-cooling unit, and a disposable tube that protects the missile. Most MANPADS are 1.4 to 1.6 meters (4.5 feet to 5.5 feet) long, about 72 millimeters (3 inches) in diameter, and weigh between 15 and 18 kilograms (33 to 39 pounds). They can travel at twice the speed of sound and hit aircraft flying as high as 20,000 feet out to a horizontal range of up to 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). A single individual or crew can carry and fire MANPADS. Their small size makes them easy to transport and conceal.

WHAT WE ARE DOING: The U.S. Department of State chairs the Interagency MANPADS Task Force (MTF), which counters illicit proliferation of MANPADS to protect civil and military aviation. The MTF was formed in 2006 by a White House directive to coordinate comprehensive efforts by government agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community to address risks posed by MANPADS in the United States and around the world.

DESTROYING WEAPONS: To prevent potential illicit proliferation of MANPADS, the MTF, in collaboration with the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement Program Management Division, provides conventional weapons destruction assistance to partner governments to destroy excess, unserviceable, or obsolete munitions including MANPADS and to better secure stockpiles retained by states for legitimate defense needs. Since 2006, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement’s stockpile management and conventional weapons destruction programs have reduced over 43,000 at-risk MANPADS and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) worldwide and remain critical to preventing further illicit proliferation of these dangerous arms.

BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS: The MTF continues to lead bilateral and multilateral coordination to build partners’ understanding of the risks associated with MANPADS, encourage responsible sales and disrupt attempted black-market sales, and advocate for MANPADS stockpile reduction and improved physical security and stockpile management in Europe, Africa, and other regions. The 42 participating members of the Wassenaar Arrangement have agreed to export control measures to curb the illicit transfer of MANPADS. The MTF coordinates with international organizations to curb illicit transfers and strengthen compliance with international regimes on MANPADS and anti-tank guided missile proliferation. For example, the MTF is supporting the Organization of American States to strengthen the capacity of Organization of American States member states, particularly law enforcement and aviation security authorities, to identify, prevent and mitigate threats to civil aviation.

RESPONDING TO TODAY’S CRISES TO PROTECT GLOBAL AVIATION: The MTF supports international efforts to respond to new threats as they arise. In response to Russia’s further illegal invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, and under direction from the National Security Council, the MTF led U.S. government efforts to conceptualize, develop, and execute the U.S. Plan to Counter Diversion of Certain Advanced Conventional Weapons in Eastern Europe, which calls on the United States, Allies, and partners to help Ukraine and neighboring states bolster accountability of MANPADS stockpiles, strengthen border security, and build capacity to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking.

BUILDING SUBJECT-MATTER EXPERTISE: The MTF works across the U.S. Government and with allies and partners to build international capacity to counter illicit trafficking of MANPADS and anti-tank guided missiles. The MTF provides MANPADS and anti-tank guided missile recognition training as well as training and identification guides to border security, aviation security, and defense personnel fighting illicit weapons proliferation. Along with the focused recognition training, MTF offers Countering Aviation Security Ecosystem Threats (CASET) training, a broader course to help authorities counter a range of technology and weapons threats to civilian aviation infrastructure. In coordination with the MTF, the Transportation Security Administration conducts MANPADS Assist Visits and International MANPADS Outreach and Training Programs that help partner countries understand and mitigate risks from MANPADS and other aviation threats and vulnerabilities. 


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