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Thread: FedEx tests missile defense

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    Default Jet with anti-missile system leaves LAX

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070117/...r_anti_missile

    LOS ANGELES - An MD-10 cargo jet equipped with Northrop Grumman's Guardian anti-missile system took off from Los Angeles International Airport on a commercial flight Tuesday, the company said.
    The FedEx flight marked the start of operational testing and evaluation of the laser system designed to defend against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles during takeoffs and landings.
    Adapted from military technology, Guardian is designed to detect a missile launch and then direct a laser to the seeker system on the head of the missile and disrupt its guidance signals. The laser is not visible and is eye-safe, the company said.
    "For the first time, we will be able to collect valuable logistics data while operating Guardian on aircraft in routine commercial service," said Robert L. DelBoca, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman's Defensive Systems Division.
    During the current test phase, which concludes in March 2008, nine MD-10s equipped with the Guardian system will be in commercial service. Katie Lamb-Heinz of Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems said all those aircraft will be freighters. The ultimate goal is to defend passenger airliners.
    The testing is part of the U.S. Department of
    Homeland Security's Counter-Man Portable Air Defense Systems program. BAE Systems has also been working for the government on a similar airliner defense system and has successfully tested it.
    John Pike, a defense analyst at GlobalSecurity.org, an Alexandria, Va., think tank, suggested that development of the system was the lesser of issues for the airline industry.
    "I think the problem is making the numbers work in the sense of figuring out who's going to pay for it," he said.
    More than capital costs, airlines are likely to be most concerned about the costs of maintenance and aircraft downtime, he said.
    "They've gotten these airliners now (so) that they are just remarkably maintenance-free. They've also gotten these airlines to the point that they've got razor thin margins," he said.
    Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., viewed the plane Monday and said she was encouraged.
    "This program is very promising because it's already met the operational testing. Now it's a question of how does it actually work in terms of stresses on the system while the airplane is in operation for several hours," said Boxer, a longtime proponent of equipping planes with anti-missile technology.
    Boxer said her first priority is to equip the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, more than 1,000 commercial airplanes operated by airlines that contract with the
    Pentagon to make military flights during emergencies.
    No passenger plane has ever been downed by a shoulder-fired missile outside of a combat zone. But terrorists linked with al-Qaida are believed to have fired two SA-7 missiles that narrowly missed an Israeli passenger jet after it took off from Mombasa, Kenya, in November 2002.
    The first commercial flight with the Guardian system followed 16 months of tests on an MD-11, an MD-10 and a Boeing 747 using simulated launches of shoulder-fired missiles.
    The Guardian system appears as a pod with eye-like features attached to the belly of the FedEx MD-10, a freight version of what was originally the three-engine widebody DC-10 airliner.
    DHS gave Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems $45 million each in 2004 to adapt military defense systems to civilian airliners, requiring improvements because military systems need too much maintenance and mistakenly fire too often.

    A government report obtained by The Associated Press last summer said that both the Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems prototypes still don't meet the reliability standards set by the DHS, and it could be 20 years before every U.S. passenger airplane has such a system.
    Billions of dollars would have to be spent to protect all 6,800 commercial U.S. airliners.
    The report said testing showed that the systems can be installed on commercial aircraft without impairing safety; at least one company can supply 1,000 systems at a cost of $1 million each; and operation and maintenance will cost $365 per flight, above the $300-per-flight goal.
    Northrop Grumman said Tuesday that during the 16-month flight test program a ground-based "electronic missile surrogate" was used to simulate launches and each time Guardian functioned as designed, automatically detecting the simulated launch and mock missile. "Had the threats been real, an invisible laser beam safe to humans would have disrupted the missile guidance system and protected the aircraft," the company statement said.

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    Default FedEx tests missile defense

    FedEx tests missile defense
    The Memphis Commercial Appeal ^ | January 17, 2007 | Jane Roberts



    FedEx Corp. kicked off the first operational test of an anti-missile system on a commercial carrier Tuesday when one of its planes took off from Los Angeles. The MD-10 is equipped with a laser system designed by Northrop Grumman Corp. to defend against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles during takeoffs and landings.


    The test is part of $81.4 million the company has received so far from the Department of Homeland Security to install missile defense systems on the nation's commercial carriers. "For the first time, we will be able to collect valuable logistics data while operating Guardian on aircraft in routine commercial service," said Robert L. DelBoca, vice president and general manager of Northrop's Defensive Systems Division.


    Northrop has been in the test stage for 16 months, using a ground-based missile surrogate to simulate a missile launch during takeoffs and landings on MD-11s, MD-10s and 747 aircraft.


    In each case, the company said, the technology has functioned as designed.


    From now until March 2008, it will test the system, a teardrop pod that sits on the belly of the plane behind the landing gear, on nine FedEx planes, gathering data over 12,000 flight hours.


    FedEx is the subcontractor in the Northrop project, designing installation for the system and completing the Federal Aviation Administration certification.
    "Not many people know this but FedEx is a pre-eminent aviation engineering firm as well as the world's largest cargo company," said Jack Pledger, Northrop spokesman.


    "They did all the flight testing, designed the installation for the aircraft and did the FAA certification," he said.


    DHS mandated that this phase of the test be done on freighter planes. The next phase will include passenger planes.


    While DHS officials have repeatedly said that no credible evidence exists of a planned missile attack in the United States, most national security experts and lawmakers believe the threat is real because a large number of the shoulder-fired missiles are available on the black market.


    The worry includes the loss of life and the economic consequences that would result if the public lost confidence in aviation.


    --Jane Roberts: 529-2512
    Libertatem Prius!


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