Missile Defense for Airliners Finds Growing Support in United States

Four companies have systems that are candidates for deployment

3 min read

Less than a year following a near-catastrophic terrorist missile attack on a packed Israeli commercial airliner, the U.S. government has taken concrete steps to provide high-tech protection to U.S. passenger jets. The Department of Homeland Security (Washington, D.C.) has unveiled plans to determine the feasibility of deploying antimissile technology on commercial passenger aircraft. A leading technology is a directed-laser device, adapted from the military, that blinds heat-seeking missiles.

Last November, a chartered Israeli commercial jet taking off at Mombasa Airport in Kenya, bound for Tel Aviv, narrowly escaped destruction when two shoulder-launched missiles that were fired at it missed. Following high-level meetings with government security officials and airline management, on 22 May the Department of Homeland Security issued a report announcing plans to develop antimissile protection technology for U.S. commercial passenger aircraft. Contracts for the antimissile systems are to be awarded in early 2004, with live-fire testing the following year.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

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