Missile "Jammer" Bill Introduced

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U.S. airliners would be equipped with missile-jamming gear -- at a cost of up to $10 billion -- under a bill introduced in Congress last Wednesday. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sponsored the bill, which would pay between $1 million and $1.5 million to add the electronic gear to each and every airliner in the country. "This is a very, very serious danger," Schumer told a news conference held Sunday in Manhattan. Various options to protect airliners from portable ground-to-air missiles were explored by federal authorities even before two Russian-made missiles narrowly missed an Israeli Arkia Airlines jet taking off from a Kenyan airport last Thanksgiving. Security has been tightened around major airports and some airports have closed public viewing areas. Shumer and Israel reportedly told the news conference that the systems they propose work by steering the missiles away from planes by jamming their guidance systems. The shoulder-launched missiles we've heard of are heat-seekers, so we don't understand how those can be "jammed" per se, but for $1.5 million each, who knows? One thing is certain, however. Nobody better be asking the airlines to chip in. Budget carrier Southwest is the only major U.S. airline making money and at least one analyst says the rest of the industry is just about at the end of its rope. "The losses are so enormous that these cannot be sustained and we're probably pretty much at the end of our borrowing ability now in the capital markets," said Darryl Jenkins of George Washington University's Aviation Institute.