FedEx Jet Flying With Anti-Missile System

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An anti-missile system is being tested aboard a FedEx MD-10 during its regular cargo flights, Northrop Grumman said this week. The airplane launched on Tuesday from Los Angeles International Airport with the Guardian system installed, starting the operational test and evaluation portion of the program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The tests will continue through March 2008. The Guardian system uses proven military technology to defend against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, Northrop Grumman said. The system detects an approaching missile and directs a non-visible, eye-safe laser toward it to disrupt its guidance signals. The DHS program aims to demonstrate the viability, economics and effectiveness of adapting existing military technology to protect commercial aircraft from shoulder-launched missiles. The Associated Press says a government report it obtained last summer concluded the Northrop Grumman prototype didn't meet the reliability standards set by the DHS, and it could be 20 years before every U.S. passenger airplane has anti-missile gear. Itís unclear just who would pay the billions of dollars to equip all 6,800 commercial U.S. airliners.