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Anti-aircraft missile protection for civil aviation

Israel has successfully carried out a live test with an anti-aircraft missile protection system that was recently installed in a number of its commercial aircrafts. The new system recently raised great interest in the U.S. looking for its own program to defend its civilian airliners.

An illustration of the BRITENING Missile Warning and Countermeasures System protecting commercial airliners against incoming heat seeking missiles.

Since the attack on an Israeli passenger plane over Kenya in November 2002 by a group linked to Al Qaeda using shoulder fired anti aircraft missiles, a great deal of concern was expressed in the aviation industry regarding the threat from Man Portable Air Defense Systems (or MANPADS) that found their way to terrorist organizations around the world.

Although the Israeli plane fortunately was not damaged during the attack, the Israeli government took notice and turned to a number of the leading Israeli defense companies to come up with a solution. Two years later, the first few Israeli commercial airliners have already been retrofitted with a new military-style anti missile defense countermeasure.

The new system, dubbed "Flight Guard", was built by Israel Aircraft Industries and was recently tested successfully (similar models are already operating with the Israeli Air Force). The system uses sophisticated missile detection and tracking systems that can react automatically in a split second and launch a flare that causes the missile to stray away from the aircraft. The flare in the commercial version of the system only glows in infra red light thus remaining unseen to the passengers on the plane and avoiding mass panic.

The current system will be installed gradually in all Israeli commercial airliners during the next three years but plans are already underway to replace it with an even more advanced protection "suite" now under development by two other Israeli defense companies - Elbit Systems and Rafael. Due to concerns raised by the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the use of flares above residential neighborhoods, the new "BRITENING" Missile Warning and Countermeasures System will use a hi-powered infra red jammer that will be able to divert multiple heat seeking missiles away from the plane.

Iddo Genuth

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