U.S.-Israel plan to guard airliners from shoulder-fired missiles

Thursday, February 27, 2003

TEL AVIV 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 risk.

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.

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