Government Orders Missile Defense Prototypes

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After they're trained to carry guns in the cockpit, airline pilots' next course could be on taking out a missile headed for their aircraft. The Homeland Security Department is calling for proposals from high-tech companies on how to protect airliners from shoulder-launched missiles and they're asking for at least two prototypes to be built. "This is a real breakthrough," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the Associated Press. Schumer is cosponsoring a bill that would retrofit 6,800 airliners with anti-missile systems at a cost of $10 billion. But while airlines would get a free ride on their existing fleet, they'd have to pay the extra $1 million for the systems on all the new aircraft they buy and that's lit a fuse under some airline groups. "Aviation security is a national defense function," said Debby McElroy, president of the Regional Airline Association. Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, said systems installed today would probably be obsolete quickly and that governments can't afford to "stay ahead of technologies which continually churn out new instruments of war." But John Pike, director of the defense policy group Globalsecurity.org, said a new generation of laser-guided anti-missile systems is under development and could be adapted to airliners. He also noted that to keep Americans safe, the entire worldwide fleet of 10,000 airliners should be equipped.