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FedEx’s Proposed Installation Of A321 Laser-Based Missile-Defense System Being Reviewed By US FAA

FedEx’s Proposed Installation Of A321 Laser-Based Missile-Defense System Being Reviewed By US FAA
Parameters that would allow the global courier company FedEx to install a laser-based missile defense system on Airbus A321-200 planes were announced on Friday by the United States Federal Aviation Administration  (FAA).
The FAA noted in a document that FedEx Corp filed for approval for the same in October 2019 to make use of a device that emits infrared laser energy outside of an aircraft as a countermeasure against heat-seeking missiles.
A FedEx spokesman declined to comment on whether the application is still being considered for approval. Currently, FedEx does not have any Airbus 321 planes in its fleet.
The FAA stated that it is currently examining the plan and would take public feedback into account. Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For decades, the airline industry and a number of countries have struggled with the threat of shoulder-fired missiles known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADs, to airliners. Infrared devices are sometimes used to target an aircraft's engines.
"The FedEx missile-defense system directs infrared laser energy toward an incoming missile, in an effort to interrupt the missile’s tracking of the aircraft’s heat," the FAA document said.
Before considering certifying the system, the FAA imposed requirements, including assuring that it will avoid unintentional operation while on the ground, even during maintenance.
Since the 1970s, over 40 civil airplanes have been hit by MANPADs, according to the US State Department.
After two missiles nearly missed an Arkia Israeli Airlines Boeing 757 passenger jet taking off from Mombasa airport in November 2002, efforts to counteract the danger accelerated.
Cargo planes have been attacked as well.
In 2003, MANPADs damaged a DHL Airbus A300 freighter, forcing it to make an emergency landing in Baghdad.
FedEx participated in a US government trial of anti-missile technology for civil planes in 2007 and 2008 by installing Northrop Grumman's Guardian countermeasures system on some commercial cargo flights, while BAE Systems announced that its JetEye system had been installed on an American Airlines plane.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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