FedEx Wants Anti-Missile Lasers For Aircraft


FedEx is asking the FAA to allow it to install anti-missile infrared lasers on its Airbus A321-200 cargo aircraft and the agency has laid out conditions for the modification. FedEx applied for the approval three years ago. It had previously worked with Northrop Grumman 10 years earlier on anti-missile defenses but the current application doesn’t name a supplier for the system. The laser system would send a high intensity beam of infrared energy toward a missile to confuse its tracking system. The system is specifically designed to thwart attacks from man portable air defense systems (MANPADS).

In a notice that is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18, the agency says there are some safeguards that must be in place before it can approve the mods. The system must be able to be disabled when the aircraft is on the ground and in maintenance. It also has to be designed so it doesn’t damage the airplane or really anything other than the incoming missile. The system will also have to be placarded and fully documented for operation and maintenance. If it approves FedEx’s application, it will only apply to the A321-200 and modification of other types will require going through the whole process.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • In other news stories FedEx has said they want the system for when they’re delivering in and/or overlying less-safe regions of the world.

    • Risk of missile attacks of course..

      While much greater in some areas – recall the A300 a crew managed to struggle to a walk-away-from crash landing at Baghdad – Islamic Totalitarian terrorists are active.

      Normally they just want to intimidate, discouraging courier services from visiting some locations.

      But recall recent unhinged person in a Jewish church in TX for example, apparently wanted to trade hostages for an Islamic Totalitarian sympathizer in a prison in TX. With more skill innocents would have died.

      (And today Russian-motivated loose cannons might try to discourage deliveries to Lithuania and like countries. Recall such incompetents shot down a Malaysian Airlines 777 over southeastern Ukraine.
      More recently, unskilled panicking missile launch operators shot down a Ukranian airliner departing Tehran without checking with command as they were supposed to. (Aided by incompetents who mis-aligned radar displays when site was moved.)

  1. I’m a pilot here at FedEx and we’ve had these available for years. I believe we own the civilian patent.

    The way I read it, the company is simply seeking to have the A321 added to the list of approved airplane types.

  2. With all the clowns hitting planes with lasers, maybe FedEx wants to hit back? (said with tongue firmly lodged in cheek…)

    Speaking of hitting planes with lasers, it seems to me that, since airliners cockpit windows tend to be on the upper side, wouldn’t the ID10T laser operator have to be quite a distance away to even hit the windows, much less the eyeballs inside? And wouldn’t said distance mitigate the intensity somewhat? Maybe not enough for those light-a-match-across-the-room lasers…

    I live a few miles downwind and a few hundred feet from the centerline’s of GEG and Ska. and have never been tempted, nor considered it worthwhile, to invest time and money to try the laser stunt.

    • I might vote for that. :-o)

      Flight deck windows are significantly visible on many aircraft.
      And of course very visible on hellos.

  3. New York Post reporting today that the FAA has effectively denied FedEx’ request by withdrawing proposed conditions that were out for comment.

    Reason is more internal study is needed.


  4. I read that the common threat is portable heat-seeking missiles, carried by one or two people.

    Effective to 11,500 feet range, usually an infrared sensor goes after heat of engine exhaust.

    (Recall airlines were flying over eastern Ukraine, until Russians brought in a higher-flying missile that shot down a Malaysian Airlines 777.)

    I read that there are hundreds of thousands of the ‘MANPAD’ missiles around the world, location of many unknown, suspected of being in the hands of terrorist groups.

    We know that US anything is a target.