Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #28: Redeye MANPADS Seized from La Linea in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 2:23pm

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #28: Redeye MANPADS Seized from La Linea in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua

Robert Bunker

Key information:  “Desmantelan cartel en NCG: incautan 19 vehículos de lujo, un lanzamisiles y 5 tigres.” La Opción de Chihuahua. Miércoles 20 de Abril 2016,

En el marco del operativo “Casas Grandes Seguro”, agentes de la Fiscalía General aseguraron potentes armas como: lanzamisiles y un fusil Barret, más de mil 300 cartuchos, gran cantidad de equipo táctico, vehículos con reporte de robo entre ellos modernos autos deportivos, drogas y animales exóticos, además de detener a seis sujetos, que pertenecen a células del crimen organizado.

Acciones de prevención, reacción e investigación efectuadas por los elementos de la Policía Estatal con la finalidad de brindar seguridad a los habitantes de la zona que comprende los municipios de: Casas Grandes, Nuevo Casas Grandes, Ascensión, Ignacio Zaragoza, Buenaventura y Janos…

Redeye MANPADS Seized from La Linea Operatives

Fiscalía General del Estado de Chihuahua

[For Public Distribution]

La Linea Cartel Enforcer Posing with Redeye (Held Backwards)

Fiscalía General del Estado de Chihuahua

[For Public Distribution]

Key information:  “Tigers, weapons, and cars seized from La Linea in Chihuahua.” Borderland Beat. Friday 22 April 2016, *Translation of La Opción de Chihuahua article by Texcoco De Mora:

Wounded criminals, criminals killed by police, six detainees, powerful missile launchers, Barret rifles, thousands of bullets, more than 20 stolen vehicles, drugs, tactical gear, cash and exotic animals were seized by the General Office of Chihuahua during an operation in several points of the city of Nuevo Casas Grandes.

Under the operation “For The Safety Of Casas Grandes” agents of the Attorney General seized powerful weapons such as rocket launchers, Barret rifles, over a thousand 300 cartridges, lots of tactical equipment, vehicles reported as stolen including modern sports cars, drugs and exotic animals, in addition to the arrest of six subjects, a cell belonging to organized crime…

Who: La Linea cartel operating in Chihuahua state, Mexico.

What: A Redeye MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System) in the possession of armed personnel belonging to La Linea. This system is part of a much larger group of weapons, ammunition, personnel protective equipment, and vehicles seized from a cell belonging to this cartel between 15 and 19 April 2016. Included in these seizures were assault rifles (Romanian 7.62 x 39), a machine gun (Browning .30 Cal), and a 50-caliber Barrett rifle (M107A1). This operation was conducted by militarized police belonging to the Fiscalía General del Estado (State Attorney General’s Office).

When: Saturday 16 April 2016.

Where: Recovered inside a stolen Blue GMC Yukon XL 2005 parked on the street outside some apartments by Jesus Urueta and Mata Ortiz streets, in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Why: The seizure was a component of the operation “For the Safety of Casas Grandes” (“Casas Grandes Seguro”) being conducted by the State Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General del Estado) against La Linea cartel.

Analysis: This cell appears to be an element of the larger Grupo Bravo de NCDJ (Nuevo Cártel de Juárez). While no NCDJ logos   were evident in the state police photos released, the seizure of the tigers—common NCDJ mascots—at the safe house at 4610 Plan Alemán street on Tuesday 19 April 2016 suggest a direct link. Further, this cartel enforcer unit commonly wears death imagery such as a skull bandana worn over the face. One of the operatives seized in the operation in a released photo is seen wearing a Santa Muerte pendant that is indicative of NCDJ death imagery/dark spirituality.   

Grupo Bravo de NCDJ Social Media

[For Public Distribution]

Captured La Linea Operative with Santa Muerte Pendant

Fiscalía General del Estado de Chihuahua

[For Public Distribution]

The fact that La Linea/NCDJ has in its possession a MANPADS—even an older Redeye system from the late 1960s—is cause for much concern. Until this time, no visual conformation has existed that the Mexican cartels actually possessed a MANPADS unit. While an older Soviet MANPADS—likely an SA-7— was recovered on a local beach in Playa Bagdad in Matamoros, Tamaulipas in May 2009, it was not physically in the possession of a local cartel such as Cartel del Golfo or their Los Zetas enforcers. Further, a photo of it has never been released.[1] The Redeye system with its infrared red (IR) targeting and high explosive warhead is capable of shooting down Mexican military and federal police helicopters. It has an engagement range from about .5 km out to 2.7 km. This is the same system the U.S. initially provided fifty of to the Mujahideen in 1984 to be used against the Soviets during their invasion of Afghanistan. If more of these MANPADS, or even newer ones, should begin to show up in Mexican cartel arsenals, federal and military helicopters would be under increasing threat of destruction. Already, in May 2011, La Familia cartel in Michoacán engaged and damaged both federal police and military helicopters with .50 Cal Barrett rifles in two separate incidents.[2] Later, in May 2015, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) engaged two Mexican military helicopters with Russian rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs)—shooting one down.[3]

With the addition of MANPADS, a cartel commando unit could create interlocking levels of anti-helicopter air defenses derived from small arms and Barrett rifles linked to RPGs and then to MANPADS at increasing stand-off distances.[4] The emergence of such a non-state opposing force (OPFOR) air defense system has long been a concern of my associate David Kuhn—a stand-off weapons expert—as it related to Terrorism Early Warning (TEW) group planning in the early 2000s, concerning terrorism potentials in the United States. The fact that the beginnings of such air defenses could now be established by some of the Mexican cartel commandos is significant and must be given serious consideration by Mexican federal authorities.         

Significance:  Anti-Helicopter, Cartel Weaponry, La Linea, MANPADS


[1] Robert Bunker, Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #14: Anti-Aircraft Mounted .50 cal. Machine Gun and Surface-to-Air Missile Recovered in 2009 (Archival). Small Wars Journal. 27 September 2012,

[2] Robert Bunker and Jacob Westerberg, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #19: Sniper Rifle Use in Mexico.” Small Wars Journal. 16 July 2013,

[3] Joshua Phillip, “Mexico Police Unprepared for New Military Tactics From Cartels.” Epoch Times. 6 May 2015,

[4] For an interview I provided discussing Mexican cartel acquisition and likely use patterns concerning surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)/MANPADS, see Chivis Martinez, “The Changing Mexican Drug War Brings New Challenges.” Borderland Beat. Sunday 23 December 2012,

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an Instructor at the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. Dr. Bunker has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at