Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Missile defense for commercial planes

How long have we been hearing about missile defense systems being developed for commercial aircraft? They're coming. They're on the way. They're almost ready.

Here's another article on that topic, telling us that "systems to protect commercial planes from shoulder-fired missiles are almost ready..."

The Reuters article, on Airwise.com, says that although the systems are "almost ready," the airlines and the government probably won't deploy them unless the public perceives an imminent threat. Translation: they won't be put into use until an airliner gets shot down by a shoulder fired missile.

From the article:
Airlines must have the technology to respond to missile threats -- even if they seem unlikely today -- said Walt Havenstein, who takes over as chief of BAE Systems in the United States on January 1.

"If somebody shoots a missile at one of our airplanes coming in off the Chesapeake Bay, and someone says 'Oh, that's what it was,' then life changes," Havenstein said at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington.

Jim Pitts, president of the electronic systems unit at US defense contractor Northrop Grumman, echoed the notion that implementation would be far more likely if the traveling public actually feared missile attacks on planes.

"Unfortunately I think a lot of it might be driven by an event," Pitts said.
Aside from fear, of course, one of the big issues is cost. We've been told again and again that to equip airliners with missile defense systems would cost about a million dollars per plane. The focus of discussion, in many cases, is not how much the systems will cost, but who will pay.

Airlines claim that if they have to foot the bill for more expensive security systems, they'll have no choice but to pass the cost along to passengers in the way of higher ticket prices and/or security fees tacked charged to each passenger. The airlines would like the government to absorb a good deal of the cost for missile defense systems, saying that "the broader public -- not just travelers -- benefit from airline security."

Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are two companies working on laser-based systems to protect aircraft from infrared guided missile attacks. BAE's system, called JETEYE is being tested on a Boeing 767. Guardian, a system under development by Northrop, has been tested on Boeing 747 and MD-11 aircraft, we are told.

Source: Missile Defense For Commercial Planes Near - Airwise.com

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