TEL AVIV Ñ Israel and the United States have agreed to pool efforts
to develop a missile warning and defense system for airliners.
Officials said the effort would be based on two systems developed by
Israeli companies. The systems are meant to protect passenger jets from
shoulder-fired infrared-guided missiles, such as that fired toward an
Israeli airliner in Kenya in November.
The United States would seek to help finance development of the systems
and facilitate their sale to American passenger jets. Officials said Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon approved the joint program with the United States in
wake of high-level defense discussions in Washington led by Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz.
The Israeli-U.S. agreement also calls on the Federal Aviation
Administration to examine the Israeli systems. The FAA, responsible for any
aircraft arriving in the United States, must approve any changes to the
frame of civilian aircraft and installation of the systems.
Rafael, Israel Armament Development Authority has developed one
missile-warning and defense system. The system is said to emit beam that
divert heat-seeking missiles.
The first step could be to equip passenger jets by Israel's El Al
national air carrier with the new systems. Mofaz has proposed placing such
equipment on up to 40 El Al jets that travel to destinations deemed as high
Another system was developed by Israel Aircraft Industries. IAI's Elta
Electronic Systems subsidiary has developed the Flight Guard, meant to
detect a missile launch and release hot air balloons that divert the
missiles away from the plane. The balloons are said to be oblong in shape
and much smaller than those released by fighter-jets.
IAI has been negotiating with a U.S. company, Netjet, to equip the
planes with the Flight Guard. The company has already sold several systems
to African and Eastern European states.