Sat, Sep 06, 2003
Estimated Cost: $1.9 Million Per Aircraft
British Airways says it's talking with aerospace manufacturers
about the development of a missile defense system for use on its
passenger-carrying aircraft. The London-based airline says it's
still in the "early days" of the project, according to the BBC.
The price tag for installing the system in all 300 of BA's
jetliners could be staggering: $570 million. But aviation security
experts are making a big noise about the threat to commercial and
GA aircraft posed by SAM shooters near airports. Just last month, a
suspected British arms dealer, Hemant Lakhani, was arrested for
trying to sell Russian-made SAMs to undercover agents posing as
Somali terrorists. Last year, terrorists in Kenya fired not one,
but two SAMs at a departing Israeli jetliner.
Still, there is a precedent for installing missile defenses on
commercial aircraft. Israel's El Al does it. Other Israeli airlines
are set to install them as well.
Then there's the
regulatory process. British Airways says "We would have to ensure
they didn't compromise existing safety systems, onboard electronics
or the overall structure of the aircraft." That's going to have to
pass muster at the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, as well as its
counterparts in Washington and Ottawa.
The BA spokeswoman also said, "Where there is a terrorist risk,
we believe the most effective preventative is for the relevant
authority to identify any likely launch site near airports."
BA isn't saying just what kind of anti-missile system it hopes
to develop. BBC reports it could be the same sort of system now
employed by military aircraft -- radar detection, followed by
copious amounts of flares and chaff (pictured above, right). There
is a laser-based air defense system out there, but the cost of
mounting that on every plane in the BA fleet would be even more
horrendous. Still, the laser systems can detect a missile lock and
automatically set its defense operations in motion.
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