Isis militant armed with a rocket launcher
Isis militant armed with a \'manpad\' rocket launcher

RAF experts are training security staff at foreign airports to help prevent missile launchers being used to bring down airliners during take-off or landing.

Up to 10,000 shoulder-launched "manpad" missiles that went missing after the 2011 Libyan revolution have been acquired by jihadist groups, including Islamic State forces fighting in the Syrian civil war.

Last year training focused on airports in Africa. It is being provided by soldiers from the RAF Regiment, who patrol the perimeters of RAF bases to guard against ground attacks.

The programme is being overseen by the Department for Transport, and the teams are being supported by the Metropolitan Police and British Airways, reports the Times.

Its existence was revealed last week at a conference at the Royal United Services Institute by Clive Wright, head of international strategy at the DfT's aviation security division.

"We need to offer assurance to ministers that overseas we are mitigating the risks so that UK carriers can continue to fly into those airports and foreign carriers from those airports can continue to fly to the UK," said Wright.

About 75 security courses have been provided in 30 countries to more than 1,600 security staff in the past four years, with training focussed in Africa and the Gulf states.

German intelligence warned in October that IS militants had seized rocket launchers capable of downing airliners flying at altitudes of up to 20,000ft from Syrian armed forces, Bild am Sonntag reported.

In 2013, the Dutch KLM airliner group temporarily cancelled flights to the Sharm el-Sheikh coastal resort after warnings of a rocket attack by militants, following clashes between Egyptian security services and Islamists in the Sinai peninsula.

Last week, IS distributed a propaganda film showing a militant launching a rocket attack on an Egyptian naval vessel.