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16/07/2008 – Airline Missile Defense System Takes Flight With First Commercial Passenger Flight
This morning an American Airlines (AA) Boeing 767-223 (762), departing New York’s JFK International Airport (JFK), for it’s 5-hour 34-minute flight to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The AA 762 slowly pushed back from Terminal 8’s Gate #4, it made it’s way to taxi-way ‘Whiskey’ then rolled to taxi-way ‘Bravo’ and then wound it’s way to it’s departure runway, it powered up its engines and lifted off into the sky…………….
What made this routine daily flight between JFK-to-LAX different than all others? This flight was the first ever U.S. passenger plane to complete a passenger flight with the BAE Systems created JetEye Infrared Missile-Defense System. The JetEye system detects a heat-seaking missile, and defends the aircraft by firing it’s own laser that diverts the in-bound missile away from the aircraft.
With security experts fearing the use of a shoulder-launched heat seeking missile, such as those used in attacks on commercial aircraft in Baghdad and Kenya, this system can thwart potential attacks, if installed on ‘high-probibilty-target’ aircraft. It is unclear what determines a ‘high-probibility-target’ aircraft, however that is an entirely different subject to cover.
While the installing of the JetEye is not intended to be mandatory on commercial aircraft in the United States, American Airlines will be installing the system on two additional 762 aircraft. These 762 aircraft, like the one that flew today, will fly domestically only on daily trans-continental routes. These commercial passenger flights will be used by BAE Systems engineers to test the reliability and maintainability of the system.
Over the past few months tests of the JetEye system has been evaluated on an ABX Air aircraft 767-232F, as well as eleven FedEx MD-10F and MD-11F. The FedEx test aircraft have been flying with the JetEye system for over a year and logged more than 4,500 flights.
Of all the press literature release regarding the maiden commercial passenger flights, I think by far the best quote from an American Airlines spokesperson is this: “No missiles will be fired at these flights.”
This quote leaves me with two questions
1) Who in their right mind would fire missiles at a flight full of passengers to test a weapons defense system?
2) If no missiles are being fired at these aircraft (not that missiles should be fired at the AA,ABX or FedEx aircraft) how does BAE Systems know that the system is reliable and maintainable?
A third question does come to mind…..if the missiles are diverted away from the aircraft, where is the missile redirected to?
The JetEye Infrared Missile-Defense System is the final phase of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ‘Counter-Man-Portable Air Defense System‘ (C-MANPADS). This program was established to test the sustainability of a commercial aircraft missile protection systems. The testing of these systems should run for a minimum of 7,000 flight hours.