Are the nations of Europe serious about comprehensive ballistic missile defense (BMD)? Or are they happy to let America provide the only effective shield over their cities and populations? Despite a ringing declaration of intent at the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon last November, these questions remain unanswered.
On the first day of the IDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi, the UAE announced that it is to upgrade 23 Black Hawk helicopters to an armed UH-60M standard. Worth over $270 million, the contract was placed with Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies, with the work to be performed mainly by AMMROC, a joint venture between ADAT and Sikorsky. The U.S. company also received a $17.6 million contract for UH-60 training.
Last year the production version of the Saab BAMSE (Bofors advanced missile system evaluation) entered service with the Swedish armed forces and now the company is promoting the air defense system for export.
Italy’s Elettronica has entered the last phase of development of its directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) system for the anti-missile protection market, and is due to complete ground tests and flight trials by the end of 2009. The project was launched in 2007 to create a system that would protect aircraft from infrared-guided (“heat-seeking”) surface-to-air missiles, and in particular, man-portable air defense systems.
The statistics are sobering: as many as 700,000 anti-aircraft missiles for man-portable air defense systems (Manpads) have been manufactured since the 1970s. Up to 7,000 missiles may be outside state control, possibly in the hands of terrorists. Since these weapons began proliferating in the 1960s, there have been some 35 documented Manpads attacks on civil aircraft.
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.
For business jets operating in potentially hostile areas, Sweden’s Saab might soon offer some protection. The company’s Avitronics division is hoping to receive EASA certification within the next eight months for its Civil Aircraft Missile Protection System (Camps). The company claims the defense system–based on countermeasures already in use on military aircraft–is the only such European system for civil aircraft.
Federal legislation introduced last month would require surface-to-air missile (SAM) protection, similar to that now used on military transport aircraft, on all of the nearly 7,000 U.S.-registered jet airliners. The bill, coauthored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), directs that installations begin by the end of the year.
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.