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Fri, Apr 23, 2004

FAA Reportedly Refuses Israeli Plans To Install Anti-Missile Defense

Israel's Transport Minister Hopes To Change Minds In Washington

Israeli media report Israeli Aircraft Industries and has been stopped cold in its attempts to fly civilian aircraft equipped with the Flite Guard anti-missile system inside the United States. The reports come as IAI announced Thursday it will begin testing the Flite Guard system in June.

If successful, a spokesman for the Israeli Transport Ministry said Flite Guard would be installed on all 30 El Al aircraft.

But the Israeli business journal The Globes says the FAA has refused to allow the companies to install the systems on aircraft that fly inside the US. The journal reports Israeli Transport Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans to appeal directly to US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta for a second chance.

At issue are the flares used by the Flite Guard system to distract incoming missiles. To please the FAA and obtain recognition worldwide, Flite Guard calibrated the flares so that they won't discharge below a certain altitude. The problem, of course, is that aircraft are most vulnerable to shoulder-launched missiles at low-altitude -- while taking off and landing.

The FAA's answer: A sort of non-denial denial.

"For individual aircraft, if anyone requests to put any sort of threat identification system or threat mitigation system on an airplane, the FAA has one concern only," spokesman Les Dorr told ANN. "It's whether the system would interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft itself. Someone else has to determine whether it would work."

Israel's national airline, El Al, is reportedly in the process of installing the Flite Guard system on its aircraft. The Globes reports El Al officials are now worried that they'll be denied landing rights in the US. But Dorr says that isn't a problem -- now.

"We do not prohibit El Al from flying in the US. That's really all I can say," he told ANN.

FMI: www.faa.gov, http://www.iai.co.il/site/en/homepage.asp

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