U.S. Department of State: Quick Reaction Force
Two men crouch around rusty bombs in a roped of area.

Quick Reaction Force technicians survey World War II unexploded ordnance on a palm oil plantation in Oro Bay Province in Papua New Guinea. Courtesy of Golden West Humanitarian Foundation.

The Quick Reaction Force (QRF) is a team of civilian explosive ordnance disposal experts that serves as the Department of State’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 activities. As such, the QRF maintains the ability to deploy globally within 48 hours of a tasking.

Quick Reaction Force logo“The QRF is a practical tool of United States’ foreign assistance,” explains Karen Chandler, Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. “As civilian communities, including refugees and internally displaced people, relocate into new areas, unplanned explosions of aging, insecure, or unstable ammunition threaten the economic livelihoods and lives of these communities. The QRF’s agility and expertise are hallmarks of U.S. security assistance that partners can reliably call on when faced with a tragic or impending emergency.”

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 “QRF assessments and advice serve to protect civilians, American citizens abroad, and U.S. service members across the world. When host governments invite the QRF for assessments and heed their expert guidance, they are able to invest in the safety of their citizens and the security of the international community.”

The Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement’s implementing partner for the QRF, is an American non-profit specializing in explosive ordnance disposal, humanitarian demining, battle area clearance, and physical security and stockpile management.

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

  • Albania
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Guatemala
  • Iraq
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kiribati
  • Kyrgyz Republic
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Malawi
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mozambique
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Republic of the Congo
  • 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

WHY DO MANPADS MATTER? More than 1,000 civilians have been killed since 1970 by terrorists and other non-state actors in dozens of attacks against civilian aircraft using man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), often referred to as shoulder-fired missiles. MANPADS were first developed in the 1960s to help legitimate armed forces defend against air attacks. Their effectiveness demonstrates their lethality, reminding us why properly securing state-owned MANPADS stockpiles and preventing their illicit diversion are vital. In the hands of terrorists, criminals, or other non-state actors, MANPADS pose a serious worldwide threat to civilian and military aircraft, escalating conflict or complicating recovery. A MANPADS attack on a civilian aircraft—even if unsuccessful—can have devastating economic and political effects.

WHAT IS A MANPADS? A MANPADS is typically a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile system, consisting of a guided missile enclosed in a disposable launch tube, a reusable trigger mechanism (“gripstock”), and a single-use battery or battery-cooling unit. A single individual or crew can carry and fire MANPADS. Their small size makes them easy to transport and conceal. 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 over 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) high and out to a horizontal range of up to 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).

WHAT WE ARE DOING: The U.S. government takes a comprehensive approach to mitigating potential MANPADS attacks. The U.S. Department of State chairs the Interagency MANPADS Task Force (MTF), formed in 2006 by a White House directive to counter illicit weapons proliferation. The MTF coordinates efforts by the Departments of State, Defense, Transportation, Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community, and synchronizes activities with like-minded allies and partners.

DESTROYING WEAPONS: To prevent potential illicit proliferation of MANPADS, the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement provides conventional weapons destruction assistance to partner governments to destroy excess, unserviceable, or obsolete munitions and to better secure state stockpiles. Since 2006, this program has removed more than 43,000 at-risk MANPADS and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) worldwide.

BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS: Through bilateral and multilateral coordination, the MTF builds global partnerships to reduce MANPADS and ATGM proliferation, encourage responsible transfers, disrupt attempted black-market sales, and urge MANPADS stockpile reduction and improved physical security and stockpile management. For example, the 42 participating members of the Wassenaar Arrangement1 agreed to implement export control measures to curb the illicit transfer of MANPADS. The MTF is currently supporting the Organization of American States to boost the capacity of its members, 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 implement the U.S. Plan to Counter Illicit Diversion of Certain Advanced Conventional Weapons in Eastern Europe.2 This plan 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 provides MANPADS and anti-tank guided missile recognition training and weapon systems identification guides to border security, aviation security, and defense personnel fighting illicit weapons proliferation. In addition, the MTF offers Countering Aviation Security Ecosystem Threats training to help authorities counter technology and weapons threats to civilian aviation infrastructure. In coordination with the MTF, the Transportation Security Administration conducts MANPADS Integrated Outreach Programs, providing training and assistance that help partner countries mitigate risks from MANPADS and other aviation threats and vulnerabilities.


  1. https://www.wassenaar.org
  2. https://www.state.gov/u-s-plan-to-counter-illicit-diversion-of certain-advanced-conventional-weapons-in-eastern-europe

Scale comparison of a typical MANPADS and an AK-47 assault rifle.

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