Airline tests anti-missile system


(eTN) – A major airline is to fit some of its planes with anti-missile technology, it emerged yesterday.

Up to three American Airlines jets will be equipped with the laser systems this spring in the latest trials to protect commercial planes from attack.

The first Boeing 767-200 will get the technology in April.

The tests will determine how well it holds up under the rigours of flight. But the firm said passengers would not be on board the aircraft during tests.

Research on the system has been approved by the US Cong-ress partly out of fear that terrorists armed with shoulder-fired weapons could hit jetliners as they take off and land.

But a spokesman for the firm said it was “not in favour” of putting anti-missile systems on commercial planes. But it agreed to take part in the tests – which will involve up to 1,000 flights – to understand the technologies that might be available in the future. It is intended to stop a missile attack by detecting heat from the rocket, then firing a laser beam that jams its guidance system.

The anti-missile technology was developed for military planes.

BAE Systems, the British defence contractor, won a £14.7 million contract from the US Department of Homeland Security to test it on passenger planes.

The technology would cost from £250,000 to £500,000 per plane to install.