Israel to install missile defense systems on airliners

Friday, March 21, 2008

Israel has announced plans to begin fitting missile defense systems to airliners within weeks.

The systems will emit flares designed to confuse the guidance systems on heat-seeking missiles. Greatest priority will go to adding the equipment - already in use with the Israeli air force - on aircraft that fly to destinations deemed high-risk, such as Asia and Africa.

The plans were initiated in 2002 after a failed attempt by Islamic insurgents with shoulder mounted missile launchers to shoot down an Israeli airliner during takeoff from Mombassa, Kenya. Israel immediately began seeking ways to protect its commercial aviation fleet.

Testing was initiated shortly afterwards, but plans were shelved while arguments as to who would pay were ongoing - either the government or El Al and Arkia. Hezbollah has recently threatened action against Israel in response to a car bomb assassination of terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, prompting the government to agree to pay the costs. Despite no claim of responsibility, Hezbollah and its backers in Iran blame the attack on Israel.

Singapore, the United States and other nations are considering similar measures. As well as flares, some proposed systems use lasers to jam heat-seeking equipment.