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.
Man-portable air-defense systems
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.
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.
Two companies are offering Israeli-built anti-missile systems to the civil aircraft market to protect airliners and business aircraft from the terrorist threat posed by shoulder-launched missiles, or Manpads (man-portable air defense systems).
L-3 Avisys is offering business aircraft operators a missile protection system based on the Widebody Integrated Platform Protection System (WIPPS) that it installed on an Airbus A340 last year for a Middle Eastern head-of-state customer.
Although not backed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security research-and-development fund, at least four other antimissile systems are vying to protect civil aircraft from the Manpad threat: L-3 Avisys of the U.S., and Israeli groups Elisra, ELTA/IMI and Elop.