NEWS

American Airlines to Fit Airplanes with Anti-Missile Systems

By Matthew Harwood

A new experiment underway at JFK International Airport in New York City will place anti-missile systems on American Airlines passenger planes flying between New York and California to deflect shoulder-to-air missiles fired by terrorists, reports MSNBC.

Shoulder fired missiles can be referred to as MANPADS, man portable air defense systems. Three of the anti-missile systems will be placed on American Airlines flights flying between JFK and airports in California, officials said. It is the first time passenger planes will be outfitted with the technology. Military jets have the equipment and there were recent tests on non-passenger cargo flights. "This is phase three of Congressionally mandated testing to determine the suitability of these systems," said DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa. The anti-missile system, which can be attached underneath the aircraft, amounts to a jamming device that works to send a heat seeking missile off course.

MSNBC reports that in recent years, FBI sting operations broke up plots in Albany, New York, and Newark, New Jersey, to obtain or smuggle shoulder-to-air missiles into the United States. Although there has been no incident of terrorists firing shoulder-to-air missiles at airplanes in the United States, there have been plenty of incidents overseas.

BAE Systems has received $29 million to oversee the program and determine whether it's worth the cost. The Air Transport Association, which represents the airline industry, says the program to install the anti-missile systems is too expensive and questions the technology's effectiveness. American Airlines doesn't seem too pleased with the program either. While the airline supports the initial round of tests, the company questions whether all airplanes should be fitted with anti-missile systems.

The program is expected to incur additional maintenance costs of $500,000 to $1 million per airplane fitted with the system, a cost Congress could pass onto either the airlines or taxpayers, says MSNBC.

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