Airport Missile Protection

By Deane Barker on June 14, 2005

Raytheon developing technology to divert missiles aimed at airliners: This is a competitor to the current plan of installing missle-avoidance systems in the airplaces themselves.

Called the Vigilant Eagle system, it would position a grid of infrared sensors on cellphone towers and buildings around airports.

When it detected a heat-seeking missile launched at a passenger jet, it would steer an electromagnetic beam at the missile to divert it. It would also determine the launch point and quickly notify security officials.

The theory is that the biggest threat comes from shoulder-fired weapons, since terrorist don’t have jets or SAMs that could shoot down a plane at crusiing altitude. What this means is that the “danger zone” for a commercial airliner is when it’s close enough to the ground to be hit by a Stinger — so essentially when it’s landing and taking off. (Stingers are only good to 12,500 feet.)

By installing these at the airports, all the planes that fly in and out are protected, instead of protection being plane-by-plane, depending on the manufacturer. It’s certainly more efficient, plus there are less points of failure than tens of thousands of individual systems installed on the planes themselves.

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