FedEx Express is seeking permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to install a high-tech missile defense system on some of its aircraft. The system would use laser beams to detect and shoot down heat-seeking missiles according to an FAA proposal filed on Friday.
The FAA could give the nod for FedEx Express to equip some Airbus A321-200 aircraft with the system so long as certain conditions are met. FedEx Express operates a global operation including in countries with ongoing conflict where western targets could come under fire.
In recent years, the FAA notes that there have been several reports of civilian aircraft coming under fire from what are called ‘man-portable air defense systems’ (MANPADS) or more commonly referred to as rocket launchers.
The system that FedEx Express wants to use would direct an infrared laser toward an incoming heat-seeking missile which would interrupt the missile’s ability to track the heat of the aircraft and hopefully throw it off course.
The FAA is inclined to approve the system but is concerned that inadvertent operation could pose a danger to humans.
Israeli flag carrier El Al is believed to be the only commercial airline to equip its aircraft with a missile defense system, although the system that El Al uses relies upon an older flare technology to throw the missiles off course.
The decision by El Al to fit missile defense systems to its aircraft came two years after a 2002 attack on a Boeing 757-300 and operated by fellow Israeli airline Arkia as it took off from Mombasa in Kenya.
Two MANPAD fired missiles were shot at the aircraft as it climbed out of Mombasa but they luckily missed and all 261 passengers and 10 crew were unharmed.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.