What is the realistic likelihood of your aircraft being targeted by a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (SAM) in the hands of a terrorist? After an Israeli charter airliner was unsuccessfully attacked by such weapons in Mombasa, Kenya, on November 28, the threat of man-portable air defense systems (manpads) has elevated concerns about terrorists shooting at airplanes.
Man-carried portable air defense systems (Manpads), also known as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, in the hands of terrorists have a lot of people very worried. It’s debatable how significant the concern really is– particularly in comparison with the threat from other sources.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded two $45 million contracts for further research into shoulder-launched-missile protection systems for commercial aircraft. BAE Systems, based in Nashua, N.H., and Northrop Grumman each got the nod to take its program to the Phase II level–a time period covering the 18 months from August this year through January 2006.
Fear mongering has been a growth industry in the U.S. since 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. Sometimes our discomfort is an unspoken undercurrent; other times there is no subtlety as the forces of opportunism seek to gorge at a trough flash-flooded with public money.