Protecting Airliners Against MANPADS Threats

By Anonymous

Analysis and Recommendations Over the past few years, an important debate has been sustained about the necessity/wisdom of protecting commercial airliners against the perceived threat of man- portable air defence systems (MANPADS) in the hands of terrorist groups. This debate involves not only varying perceptions about the seriousness of this threat, but also the feasibility (in both technological and perhaps even more significantly financial terms) of equipping commercial aircraft with self-defence systems, as well as the respective advantages and shortcomings of the various solutions being offered by industry.

This article reflects the position of the international Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). Readers should be aware, however, that different suggestions have been put forward by other official or semi-official bodies and interest groups. Also, it must the appreciated that the debate does not involve Israel, whose commercial aircraft are nowadays equipped with self-defence systems as a matter of standard policy.

Defining the Threat

For purposes of this article, MANPADS are defined as shoulder- fired, anti-aircraft missiles. They are lightweight (typically about 1 5kg) and relatively easy to use with adequate training. There are numerous types of MANPADS, many derived from the Soviet- manufactured SA-7 GRAIL (or STRELA system) that first entered military service in 1968.

Early MANPADS technology possessed only limited rear-aspect acquisition and attack capability that generally required a shooter to engage aircraft moving away from his/her position. Two additional systems developed by the then Soviet Union, the STRELA (SA-14) and the IGLA series (which includes the SA-16 GIMLET and SA-1 8 GROUSE in NATO parlance) significantly improve the performance of MANPADS. These improved systems possess all-aspect capability that allows them to acquire and attack an approaching or receding airborne target possessing a minimal heat signature. Both of these systems are also equipped with a larger warhead to increase lethality and employ improved infrared seekers designed to resist deception by heat-generating, countermeasure flares.

In addition to the prevalent Soviet/Russian technology and the very many licensed or unlicensed clones, other systems such as the Chinese VANGUARD, British JAVELIN, Swedish RBS-70, French MISTRAL, and US STINGER are also reported to be available from global, black market sources. Of these systems, the STINGER-RMP is considered the most advanced shoulder-launched missile and is capable of bringing down jet fighter and helicopter aircraft equipped with first- generation countermeasures.

An estimated 20 manufacturers have produced approximately 37 different types of systems. According to one US Army intelligence assessment, as many as 500,000 MANPADS may exist worldwide. Estimates put approximately 1% of that number, or 5,000 to 7,500, as being outside government control and possibly available on the black market. Buyback programmes, however, have met with some success in keeping these weapon systems out of terrorist hands.

Although MANPADS effectiveness is somewhat limited by a relatively small explosive charge, short range and altitude capability, they do possess manoeuvrability and acceleration up to speeds exceeding Mach 1.5. Passenger and air cargo airplanes attacked within the effective range and altitude of a MANPADS cannot outmanoeuvre or outrun the missile.

Fortunately, however, MANPADS have additional limitations that dramatically affect their performance capability. Limited shelf life, scarce battery supplies, restricted tracking capability, and operator proficiency all impact upon successful employment. In addition, they are strictly line-of-sight, visual-acquisition weapons adversely affected by sun location and other environmental conditions. Recent statistical data derived from ongoing operations in Iraq indicate that only 20% of MANPADS-type missiles fired at non- Infrared CounterMeasure (IRCM) equipped aircraft actually struck their targets.

ALPA first recognised the MANPADS threat to commercial aviation shortly after the Afghan/ Soviet conflict that spanned the decade between 1979 and 1989.

The lack of accountability of US-supplied STINGER-type missiles and subsequent black market availability of those missiles provided both political and narco-motivated terrorists with the potential ability to effectively attack aircraft anywhere in the world. MANPADS provide the terrorist with a desirable “shoot and scoot” capability. ALPA was one of the first organisations to announce and actively promote its concern about this emerging threat to government and law enforcement agencies.

The perception of a MANPADS threat to commercial aviation increased dramatically following the attacks against the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Fortunately, all MANPADS attacks on commercial aircraft have so far occurred in either war zones or regions of active conflict and terrorism. The United States, however, remains at risk due to its current global military and political activities; as a result, the potential MANPADS threat to commercial airline operations is very real.

According to statistics provided by the Boeing Company’s Advanced Programmes and Technology Division, between 30 and 60 aircraft incidents involving MANPADS have been reported in the last 20 years. Most of those events involved turboprop, piston, business jet airplanes, and helicopters in areas of conflict (e.g., Angola, Sudan, Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia and former USSR states). Boeing has investigated and verified four commercial jet transport incidents: in the first incident, the warhead hit but did not explode; in the second incident, an engine was made inoperative, but a successful landing was accomplished; in the third event, the missile completely missed the aircraft; and in the fourth attempt the aircraft was struck, but safely landed with a damaged wing.

Two additional events reported as MANPADS attacks against commercial aircraft involved the 1994 destruction of a B-737 trans porting the President of Rwanda, and the 1998 downing of a B-727 in Congo. Boeing maintains substantiating data is not available to confirm that these two aircraft losses were the result of successful MANPADS attacks.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides a slightly different perspective. TSA statistics indicate that there have been 36 confirmed MANPADS attacks against commercial aircraft since 1 978: 25 attacks in Asia, two in Latin America, and three in the former USSR. The 36th attack occurred in Iraq against an A-300 air cargo transport. Of these attacks, 29 were made against propeller-driven aircraft, leaving just seven MANPADS attacks against jet aircraft since 1 978. It is noteworthy that six of the seven aircraft survived the attack.

How Real is the Threat?

One significant concern related to the issue of MANPADS countermeasures is determining the probability of an attack on a US airliner. ALPA does not have the resources to determine the actual threat of MANPADS to airline aircraft, so the Association must rely on the capabilities of government and military experts to make such a determination. However, some general observations can be made that are useful in placing the question into perspective.

Risk is often defined as a multiple of three variables: motivation, ability, and opportunity. The weaker each of these variables is, the less likely the threat shall be realised.

It is axiomatic that al Qaeda possesses the motivation to attack passenger and all-cargo aircraft. This was demonstrated unequivocally on 9/11, and confirmed by additional actions both before and since that date. Whether terrorists are motivated to attack using MANPADS is a more specific, but necessary, question to pose. Given that there are other types of weapons available – weapons less complicated, less costly, equally lethal, and requiring less training – are MANPADS the terrorist weapon of choice? The 9/1 1 suicide terrorists used only unsophisticated, bladed weapons and bomb threats to hijack airplanes and destroy the World Trade Center. However, MANPADS have been used against aircraft by al Qaeda- sponsored terrorists since 2001.

The ability of terrorists to successfully launch a MANPADS attack depends on numerous variables such as quality of training, type and condition of equipment, weather, target aircraft size, and location with respect to the shooter. The ability of terrorists to successfully destroy a transport-size aircraft is questionable, based on the demonstrated failure to down El Al and DHL aircraft attacked since 9/11.

The opportunity to currently attack commercial aviation in the United States with MANPADS appears limited. Federal agency representatives have reported that there are no known, illegally obtained MANPADS within the nation’s borders. Furthermore, several illegal efforts to buy black market shoulder-fired missiles from within the country have been thwarted by law enforcement agencies. This does not, however, guarantee that no such illegal weapons are present.

As earlier noted, there are possibly thousands of older- generation (and perhaps hundreds of newer model) MANPADS available on the black market. If none of these weapons has been successfully smuggled into the United States thus far, it is reasonable to presume future attempts will be made. Also, terrorists would of course always maintain the choice of attacking US commercial aircraft as the take off from, or land at airports outside the US. MANPADS represent only a single element of the multiple threats that may potentially be confronted during the taxi, takeoff, and landing phases of flight operations. Mortars and rocket-propelled grenades can destroy aircraft, as well as large-calibre rifles using incendiary bullets or improvised explosives smuggled aboard by passengers or ground staff. Many of these devices are far less complicated, relatively inexpensive, easily constructed, and equally destructive compared to a shoulderfired MANPADS. And of particular note, these other threats are unaffected by IRCM-type countermeasures.

MANPADS Countermeasures

Counter-MANPADS (C-MANPADS) technology was devised in response to the new generation of shoulder-fired missiles represented by the SA- 7. Airborne countermeasure technologies developed for military or other specialised purposes, however, are presently not compatible with commercial airline operations. Although underlying military technologies could provide a basic defensive platform, the systems must be adapted to meet commercial operational concepts. As yet, Counter-MANPADS defensive systems are not sufficiently effective, affordable, or available for commercial aircraft application.

One technology identified for potential commercial use is the so- called Directed Infrared Counter-Measure (DIRCM), an infrared device that jams missile guidance systems. Current DIRCM technology, however, would require reengineering before being used by the US commercial airline fleet. The DIRCM system is complicated and challenging to maintain, requiring repair or refurbishment after approximately 300 hours of operational use. While such a maintenance requirement can be met by the military given their maintenance and logistical infrastructure, it is incompatible with commercial airline operations whose aircraft operate 10-12 hours per day. The cost of training, ground support equipment, supplies, and the required logistics trail needed at airports throughout the nation makes the DIRCM prohibitive for current employment by civilian commercial fleets. Estimates put the potential cost of integrating this system at $5 billion to $10 billion per year, a burden that the US commercial air carrier industry cannot sustain.

Military-designed missile countermeasures such as the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) unit, which employs DIRCM technologies, exists in various stages of development and initial fielding. DIRCM/ LAIRCM systems defeat missile guidance systems by directing a high-intensity modulating laser beam onto the missile’s seeker head. A disadvantage of these detection systems, however, is their vulnerability to strobe lights and other triggering devices frequently present in municipal airport environments. As well, the same requirement for extensive maintenance currently limits these systems to military and heads-of-state aircraft – although it should pointed out that current US regulations dictate the presence of LAIRCM on all aircraft transporting personnel and cargo in and out of Baghdad Airport.

DIRCM commercialisation requires tightly integrated systems engineering and development, as well as testing and evaluation of existing and emerging military equipment. Efforts to transition IRCM systems to civilian use face several limitations. The primary challenges are:

– Achieving an affordable total cost of ownership;

– Improving reliability over their military counterparts;

– Providing automatic operation without crewmember involvement (due to both the short time between MANPADS launch and impact, and the lack of appropriate crew training);

– Performing less labour and time-intensive maintenance interventions;

– Decreasing false alarm rates; and

– Ensuring that these devices can be safely applied in operating environments of civilian aircraft.

Affordable total cost is an absolutely key issue. The unit cost target established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is $1 million per aircraft for the 1,000th system delivered. DHS contractors Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems claim their proposed systems are within the DHS cost target and “well below” the original operational cost target of less than $500 per flight, but this has since been drastically reduced to $300 per flight and a recent DHS report estimates perflight costs for a fleet of 1,000 aircraft equipped with the DIRCM technology to be $65 above that ceiling.

Cost for aircraft-mounted C-MANPADS range between $1 .3 and $3 million per aircraft. Northrop Grumman has estimated that its system will cost less than $1 million per unit when ordered in batches of 200 to 300. The company has also estimated the operating and maintenance costs would be $26.50 per hour for a 300-aircraft fleet, and fall below $13.00 per hour for 1,000 aircraft.

Israel’s Elta and Alliant Techsystems’ flare countermeasures fall into a price range of approximately $300,000 to $500,000 per aircraft, but face significant controversy in the public and government domain. Flares have minimal effect against the latest generation of MANPADS, but create problems when deployed.

Significant concerns exist regarding the fact that dispersed flares falling to the ground could start fires and generate public panic. As well, flare systems are subject to unacceptable levels of false alarms. These collective concerns have led to the restricted use of this countermeasure system within the United Kingdom. Although not selected as a final contractor on the Counter-MANPADS project, Raytheon has developed an “expendable” pyrophoric system that ejects small metallic disks that oxidize in the air and instantaneously generate high temperatures designed to distract a MANPADS from the intended target. The system costs approximately $650,000 per aircraft. It would weigh about 72kg and would also include an appendage and sensors.

C-MANPADS operating costs will be driven not only by maintenance considerations, but also by drag and weight penalties. Added drag equates to added fuel consumption, while additional weight amounts to lost payload and revenue. The DHS has set a weight limit of 450kg (1 ,000 lbs.) and a maximum drag penalty of 1%. The Northrop Grumman DIRCM device would weigh about 150kg and consist of a canoe-shaped appendage attached to the bottom of the fuselage, plus several sensors located around the aircraft’s exterior. BAE Systems, whose system is integrated into the aircraft fuselage, claims their design will create less drag and will provide significant fuel savings to the carrier(s).

If a C-MANPADS is selected for employment, the decision regarding what aircraft will be protected must be determined. There are an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 commercial aircraft in operation daily, but it remains to be determined which aircraft, if any, will be equipped with counter-MANPADS systems. Options may include the whole US commercial fleet, just the 300 widebody aircraft in the Department of Defense Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), or merely those aircraft venturing into hostile environments.

Aircraft Survivability

As previously noted, large transport category aircraft have a high statistical probability of surviving the damage sustained by a single MANPADS hit, but survival is not guaranteed. Design improvements could be made that would markedly improve the odds of surviving single or multiple missile hits. Aircraft could be “hardened” to make them less susceptible to the damage and loss of primary flight control systems that allow the airplanes to remain aloft. Many newer aircraft already incorporate improvements, such as hydraulic fuse plugs and other enhancements, to maintain flight control, but redundant backup control systems should be considered to assure survivability.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended in 1990 that the FAA “encourage research and development of backup flight control systems” and “give all possible consideration to the redundancy of, and protection for, power sources for flight and engine controls.” NASA conducted research and development in the early 1990s on enginepropulsion control system technology to be used in the event of flight control damage or incapacitation. One such technology, the Propulsion-Controlled Aircraft (PCA) system, enables the flight crew to safely fly and land an FMS/FADEC-equipped aircraft whose flight control systems have been rendered inoperative. NASA has successfully demonstrated this technology on several types of aircraft, including those in the large transport category. PCA systems could significantly enhance the ability of an aircraft to survive any type of standoff weapon attack, not just shoulder-launched missiles. They would also prove useful in the event that flight control systems are lost due to mechanical failure (e.g., United Flight 232 in Sioux City, 1989). ALPA fully supports the development, certification, and installation of the PCA system, a system that could be deployed for a mere fraction of the cost of installing electronic MANPADS countermeasures.

Airline Economics

The airline industry is currently experiencing very difficult times described as “the perfect storm” of high fuel prices, terrorist threats, a war-time environment, and the rise of low-cost carriers that are challenging the so-called “legacy” carriers. As a result, the established huband-spoke airlines are fighting for their survival despite passenger loads that equal or surpass pre-9/11 levels. The Air Transport Association maintains that at this time the air transport industry cannot afford the cost of Installing and maintaining C-MANPADS technology on their member airlines’ fleets.

Government Response to MANPADS Threat The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in partnership with other federal agencies, is taking an aggressive approach to counter the threat of shoulder- fired missile attacks against commercial aviation. The DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate leads the technology effort through its Aircraft Protection Programmes Office. The DHS is determining the viability of adapting existing technology from military to commercial aviation use. Following an aggressive analysis, prototype demonstration, and testing phase, the DHS will provide the Administration and Congress with recommendation(s) for the most viable solution(s) to defend against shoulder-fired missiles.

The C-MANPADS programme utilises a robust and disciplined systems engineering approach. The essence of the programme is to collect information from industry, select the best contractor(s) to perform systems analysis and flight tests, and then devise a plan that will permit modifications of commercial aircraft with the least disruption and out-of-service costs to the airline industry. The programme team works closely with the DoD, State, and Treasury as well as the FAA to provide DHS with technical and managerial expertise, advice, and assistance.

The DHS established the system development programme in a manner that would apply existing technologies from the military environment to the commercial airline environment rather than developing new technologies. In this way, the DHS hopes to leverage military investment in counter-MANPADS technology in order to identify a technical solution that can be deployed in the civil aviation environment in a much faster time frame assuming that such a system can be tailored to meet the operational needs and requirements of civilian flight operations. The DHS has focused its efforts toward a specific C-MANPADS approach by eliminating certain approaches to aircraft protection. Although a review of available technologies by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy identified an onboard jammer (DIRCM or LAIRCM system) as the most promising, the DHS initially hedged its bets and in January 2004, it reduced the original number of 24 potential contractors being considered to just three teams, each of which received a $2 million Phase I contract: two teams offering DIRCM/LAIRCM solutions, and a third using a dual-spectrum (UF passive and RF active) system dispersing expendable countermeasure decoys. Teams led by BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman proposed commercial derivatives of DIRCM/LAIRCM military systems, while a team led by United Airlines, partnered with AVISYS and ARLINK, offered a version of a decoybased system developed by AVISYS. In August 2004, the United Airlines team was eliminated, and an 18-month Phase Il evaluation phase commenced with BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman each receiving a $45 million development and evaluation contract calling for the delivery of at least two complete countermeasure units per contractor. The plan anticipated that a parallel FAA certification effort will coincide with this system’s development and demonstration, leading to an FAA- certified system that could be operationally deployed on commercial aircraft at the end of the two year project or soon thereafter.

The Northrop Grumman team, which includes Federal Express and Northwest Airlines, offers the GUARDIAN, a derivative version of AN/ AAQ-24(V) NEMESIS system that is already in use in more than 300 military and WIP transport aircraft. The team of BAE Systems, American Airlines and Honeywell bids the JETEYE, which in turn is based on the ATIRCM (Advanced Threat Infra-Red CounterMeasures) military system. Airborne testing on widebody airliners (an American Airlines’ Boeing 767 for the JETEYE, and a FedEx MD-11 for the GUARDIAN) started in early 2006.

In August 2006, in order to foster competition, the DHS decided not to select a winning contractor and rather move both companies to Phase III under similar $55.4 million contracts. The 18-month Phase III includes delivery and installation of pre-production equipment on commercially operated aircraft by US cargo carriers similar to those aircraft dedicated to meet the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) requirement, and stresses refining the technology, improving reliability, and reducing costs. Passenger aircraft are not included in this phase. Phase III testing focuses on assessing how the presence of a self-defence system affect revenues and operations – including turnaround time, profitability, maintenance and costs – of commercial cargo. By March 2008, the two contractors shall write a report detailing their findings and send it to the DHS.

BAE Systems continues flying the same Boeing 767 as in Phase Il as well as at least another similar cargo aircraft flown by ABX Air. while options as regards the total number of aircraft to be equipped have not been unveiled. Northrop Grumman has much more ambitious plans to produce twelve GUARDIAN systems, modify eleven FedEx MD-10 aircraft and operate the technology on board nine of the planes. The first GUARDIAN-equipped MD-10 took off for the first time on 16 January 2007 out of Los Angeles International Airport, thus becoming the first non-Israeli wide-body commercial aircraft in scheduled service flying with technology to counter terrorist missile attacks. All nine aircraft are expected to be flying by mid-summer.

Further, in May 2007, Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y), and Melissa Bean (D-III.) introduced a draft legislation that would provide for the installation of self-defence systems on board commercial flights transporting US troops to the Middle East.

While the above programme is underway based on a 2003 Congressional directive for DHS to develop anti-missile technology already in use in the military for application on commercial aircraft, in 2006 Congress further directed DHS to explore emerging countermeasure technologies, including those that are groundbased, airborne, or a combination of the two. This new directive was clearly caused by the mounting perception in Congress of the skyhigh cost and problematic performance of DIRCM-based self-defence systems for commercial airliners, and thus was mainly aimed at exploring the feasibility and convenience of missile defence systems that would be located at airports to protect planes at take off and landing (these being the only moments when airliners are at risk from MANPADS and other conceivable forms of terrorist attacks), as well as non-DIRCM airborne system. Needless to say, forms of ground-based protection would only be applicable to US domestic airports, and would thus leave US airliners completely unprotected when flying abroad.

On 20 October 2006, the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) directorate announced selection of three firms to receive $7.4 million in combined contract awards for Phase I of the Emerging Technologies Counter-MANPADS efforts. L-3 Communications AVISYS Corporation ($1 .4 million), Northrop Grumman Space Technology ($1.9 million) and Raytheon ($4.1 million) will evaluate and demonstrate emerging counter-MANPADS technology solutions, other than airborne DIRCM that show the most promise in defeating this threat. Over the next 18 months, DHS will work closely with the DoD and these select vendors to assess the maturity and effectiveness of relevant technologies, application of resources to determine potential system approaches, and suitability in the civilian aviation environment.

Raytheon is proposing the tower-mounted VIGILANT EAGLE system, which would cost about $25 million per airport and which relies on electro-magnetic emissions to disrupt the missile and divert it away from the target aircraft. Northrop Grumman’s SKYGUARD uses the different approach of a high-powered laser to shoot down missiles fired at airliners, and is project to also cost in the region of $25- 20 million per airport. AVISYS will probably resurrect its original proposal for a Commercial Airliner Protection System – 2nd Generation (CAPS2). The CAPS2 decoy-based approach is a derivative of the AVISYS WIPPS (Wide-body Integrated Platform Protection System), which was designed for VIP and Head of State aircraft around the world. The major subsystems and decoys integral to the WIPPS and CAPS architecture have a worldwide support structure and are widely used by the US military and allied nations for aircraft protection.

The competing CMAPS (Counter Man-Portable Air Defence System) by General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products was not funded by the DHS, but it has nonetheless received $2 million in DoD funding to conduct a full-scale demonstration at the Naval Air Systems Command China Lake, Calif., test facility in August. CMAPS uses a network of ground sensors to detect and verify the launch of shoulder-fired missiles and tracks those missiles with great precision. High-power infrared countermeasures are then directed to the missile, breaking the missile’s lock on the aircraft.


– The MANPADS threat is real, but based upon statistics cited in the body of this document (six of seven widebody aircraft attacked survived), the actual risk of a catastrophic hit on transport aircraft is probably lower than commonly understood.

– Other types of standoff weapons pose an equal or greater threat than MANPADS, particularly during ground operations.

– Equipping all aircraft with counter-MANPADS technology will not provide defence against other types of standoff weapons.

– Aircraft could be “hardened” against MANPADS attacks by making them less susceptible to the loss of flight control systems. This may be done through the use of such devices as hydraulic fuse plugs and other enhancements to prevent the loss of all hydraulic fluid and the subsequent loss of flight control.

– NASA has performed preliminary testing of a PCA system that could be used to safely fly and land an FMS/FADEC-equipped aircraft whose flight controls have been damaged or incapacitated. – The MANPADS threat to commercial aviation is a threat to national security. As such, the research cost of Counter-MANPADS technology should be borne by the US government.

– The TSA and FAA have not provided procedural guidance to aircraft crewmembers on how to deal with a warning of a MANPADS launch, nor explained their plan to deal with airspace threatened by a MANPADS attack.

When defensive systems are effective, affordable, and available, and government agrees to bear the cost, equipage should be considered.



– The government should continue to deploy other countermeasures, such as intelligence, surveillance, disruption of terrorist plans, and non-proliferation measures, to counter all types of standoff threats, including MANPADS. Emphasis should be placed on identifying and disabling the “man” in the MANPADS threat.

– Airports, municipalities, and law enforcement organisations should work to prevent attacks involving MANPADS and other types of standoff weapons by keeping areas around major airports under surveillance.

– The public should be informed of measures that the government and industry are undertaking to counter MANPADS and to deter terrorists, possibly incorporating “area watch” programmes as implemented by the British around their airports.


– DHS should proceed with its test programme for existing Counter- MANPADS technologies, with the active involvement of ALPA and other affected stakeholders.

– DHS should expand its R&D programme to develop advanced alternative counter-MANPADS technologies that are highly effective, having low acquisition costs, a low/no aerodynamic drag penalty, and low maintenance costs.

– Aircraft should be made less susceptible to the loss of flight control systems. Aircraft should be equipped with hydraulic fuse plugs and other enhancements, as appropriate, to prevent the loss of hydraulic power in the event of a MANPADS attack. Government should fund, and the FAA should develop and certify, the PCA system for deployment on airline aircraft.

– If the outcome of the DHS evaluation and test programme leads to a mandated installation of counter-MANPADS technologies on airline aircraft, the systems should be purchased, installed, and maintained by the US government. Such systems must be totally automated and require no intervention by flight crews to function correctly.

– The TSA and FAA should establish clearly defined procedures for crewmember response to a MANPADS threat alert, and define plans to direct aircraft away from airspace threatened by missile attack.


– The US government should test aircraft vulnerability to MANPADS hits and provide the information to manufacturers for developing aircraft vulnerability enhancements for existing and future aircraft.

– Air transport carriers should develop amendments to their flight training curriculum that instruct flight crews on planning for a MANPADS attack, alternate airport considerations in the event of an actual hit, and what type of emergency flight procedures to use, particularly in those cases in which flight control by conventional means is lost or impaired. ALPA strongly supports evaluations on the part of the manufacturers and regulators to develop Throttle Only Control (TOC) techniques for each aircraft model, and operators should provide adequate training guidance so that flight crews can achieve a successful landing.

– A national alert system should be established in the event of a significant attack such as was experienced on 9/1 1 . The system would provide for the communication of emergency information between government agencies, air traffic control facilities, flight crewmembers, airline security entities, and other appropriate recipients.

– Government and industry should develop a crisis management plan to provide guidance for safely and securely operating the air transport system following a MANPADS attack.

A close-up image of BAE Systems’ JETEYE point and track “jam head” installed on the belly of an American Arlines Boeing 767.

Most of the system is accommodated inside the aircraft’s fuselage, and the jam head extends no more than some 9 inches (22cm) below the fuselage. BAE Systems stresses that this design approach minimised added aerodynamic drag.

A dramatic image of the DHL A300B4 cargo aircraft, registered OO- DDL being hit by a S-U MANPADS near the left wingtip while taking off from Baghdad Airport on 22 November 2003. The aircraft was at an altitude of some 8000ft when hit. Le aircraft lost all hydraulics and therefore had no flight controls, but the pilot was able to execute a successful emergency landing with throttle control only.

The streamlined pod of the Northrop Grumman GUARDIAN system.

National Strategy for Aviation Security

By issuing National Security Presidential Directive-47/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-16 of June 20, 2006 (“Aviation Security Policy”), President George W. Bush established USpolicy, guidelines, and implementation actions to continue the enhancement of US homeland security and national security by protecting the United States and US interests from threats in the air domain. The document directed the development of the National Strategy for Aviation Security (National Strategy), which established the overarching framework for a comprehensive and integrated national approach to secure the aviation transportation system, building on current successful initiatives and directing additional security enhancements where necessary, and the following seven supporting plans:

– The Aviation Transportation System Security Plan directs a risk- based approach to developing and implementing measures to reduce vulnerabilities within the aviation transportation system;

– The Aviation Operational Threat Response Plan prescribes comprehensive and coordinated protocols to assure an effective and efficient US Government response to air threats against the Nation and its interests;

– The Aviation Transportation System Recovery Plan defines a suite of strategies to mitigate the operational and economic effects of an attack in the air domain, as well as measures that will enable the aviation transportation system and other affected critical government and private sector aviation-related elements to recover from such an attack as rapidly as possible;

– The Air Domain Surveillance and Intelligence Integration Plan coordinates requirements, priorities, and implementation of national air surveillance resources and the means to share this information with appropriate stakeholders;

– The International Aviation Threat Reduction Plan details US international activities to counter illicit acquisition and use by terrorists, other criminals, and other hostile individuals or groups of stand-off weapons systems that pose the most significant threats to lawful civilian and military use of the air domain;

– The Domestic Outreach Plan ensures stakeholder participation in the implementation of the supporting plans and related aviation security policies and provides guidelines for outreach in the event of a threat to, or an attack on, the United States or another disruptive incident to the aviation transportation system;

– The International Outreach Plan provides a comprehensive framework to solicit international support for an improved global aviation security network.

While these plans address different aspects of aviation security, they are mutually dependent and complement each other. When combined with critical performance measures, collectively they create the integrated foundation essential for an effective strategy and should be regularly assessed to ensure progress in the Nation’s aviation security programme.

In details, the Aviation Transportation System Security Plan continues, expands, and enhances efforts to further reduce vulnerabilities in all critical system areas. This Plan directs aggressive efforts to: (1) ensure that anyone entering or using the Aviation Transportation System has been identified and vetted or screened; (2) ensure the United States Government is taking all reasonable measures to detect and prevent the use of weapons against elements of the air domain, or to use the aviation transportation system to transport, become a weapon, or serve as a means of dispersal of weapons including CBRNE, as well as liquid explosives; and (3) harden the critical elements of the aviation transportation system infrastructure against other forms of attack, such as MANPADS and stand-off weapons or cyber attack.

The American Airlines Boeing 767 outfitted with BAE Systems’ JETEYE aircraft flew for the first time on 10 November 2005 from Fort Worth, Texas.

The damage on the DHL A300B4 cargo aircraft that was hit over Baghdad on 22 November 2003.

Self-protection systems for commercial aircraft must be able to operate in a completely autonomous mode with no crew intervention beyond activation. Picture shows the simple On/Off switch for the JETEYE system onboard the Boeing 767 test aircraft.

The miniature pointer/tracker of the GUARDIAN.

Large Aircraft Survivability Initiative

The worldwide proliferation of Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) and the availability of these weapons to terrorists and terrorist organisations has made the protection of large, slow- moving civilian and military aircraft a major concern to both civilian and militan/ decision-makers. The Large Aircraft Survivability Initiative (LASI) is a US Air Force initiative begun in early 2003 that encourages partnering between government and industry to address and assess proposed solutions to this threat. Currently, there are over 60 agencies and companies participating in LASI.

The primary goal of LASI is to make large commercial, commercial derivative, and military aircraft more survivable. LASI provides a forum at which individuals from both government and industry who have a common interest in large aircraft survivability can engage in technical interchange and collaborate in a concerted effort toward furthering that goal. LASI objectives include the following: – Bringing together the full capabilities of the Federal government and industry with the common purpose of improving large aircraft survivability;

– Investigating and validating the viability of non-mainstream survivability enhancement alternatives, and

– Assessing by demonstration and analysis the survivability of large aircraft.

Ongoing collaborations within the LASI community include 747 SPIRITS Model Development, 747 Hit-Point Analyses, 737 SPIRITS Model Development, Radio Frequency (RF) Weapons Threat Characterisation and Luggage Evaluation Analysis, Ground-Based Infrared Countermeasures (IRCM) Feasibility Study, Large Engine Vulnerability to MANPADS, Control Surface Vulnerability to MANPADS, MANPADS vs. Airliner Wing M&S, and Large Aircraft Fire Protection.

Sequence of the Northrop Grumman SKYGUARD airport protection system engaging a MANPADS missile.

Simplified block diagram of the Elbit/EIOp MUSIC (Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasure) system. This can considered as representative of all DIRCM system.

The Raytheon VIGILANT EAGLE ground-based airport protection system uses high-power microwave technology to protect commercial aircraft from shoulder-fired missiles. VIGILANT EAGLE creates a “dome” around an airport that protects all aircraft. Missiles are identified and tracked by a fixed grid of passive IR cameras, and a High-power Amplifier-Transmitter (HAT) radiates a beam of directed electromagnetic energy to disrupt the missile’s circuits (sensor, sensor pointing, airframe controls, and guidance) and divert it away from the target aircraft.

Artist’s impression of the Rafael BRITENING system in action to protect an airliner against a shoulder-fired IR-homing missile. The system consists of four passive missile warning sensors with a field of view of 120[degrees] each to provide overlapping emispheric coverage, and two DIRCM turrets each housing an IR tracker and IR source. BRITENING can handle two threats simultaneously, and works in a fully autonomous mode with no crew intervention.

Elettronica/EIOp DIRCM Cooperation

During the Paris Air Show, Elbit Systems Electro-Optics Elop Ltd. and Elettronica SpA announced an agreement to cooperate and complete the joint development of advanced DIRCM (Direct Infra-Red Counter- Measures) systems intended to protect helicopters and widebodied aircraft from low altitude attack by shoulder-mounted heat-seeking missiles.

Elettronica and Elop will jointly offer defence solutions based on MUSIC , claimed to be the world’s most advanced laser-based DIRCM protection system, integrating fibre laser technology with a small, highly dynamic turret to provide effective, reliable and affordable protection under all operational conditions. The system can operate with most types of Missile Approach Warning Systems (MAWS) and can be Integrated into Defensive Aids Sub Systems (DASS).

The two companies will offer systems solutions based on the technology for both military and civilian use. Marketing has begun, with early deliveries expected by the end of 2008.

Israel’s Civil Aviation Protection Plan

Following the attack against the Arkia Airlines Boeing 757 in November 2002, Israel moved very quickly to equip its airliners with some form of protection against MANPADS. The Civil Aviation Protection Plan, headed by the Ministry of Transport (MoT) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) calls for all commercial aircraft in service with the three Israeli airlines – El-Al, Arkia and lsrair – to receive a self-defence suite. The cost for the acquisition and installation of the systems will be covered by the Israeli Government, while the airlines will be responsible for maintenance.

In the immediate term, the aircraft are receiving the IAI ELTA/ IMI FLIGHT GUARD system. This is based on the companies’ existing models for military transport aircraft and helicopters, and includes a missile warning system based on a pulse-doppler radar with 360[degrees] coverage (ELTA) and a launcher for newly-developed flares (IMI), In the long term, a robust DIRCM solution is being sought, and the MoT/MoD have already selected a combined system being developed by Rafael and El-Op (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems). The combined system is based on Rafael BRITENING Directed Infra-Red Counter Measures (DIRCM) suite and on El-Op’s MUSIC (Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasure) laser system.

The IAI/ELTA-IMI FLIGHT GUARD system has been adopted under Israel’s Civil Aviation Protection Plan for installation on all commercial airliners.

Picture shows the two components of the system, the EL/M-2160F radar-based missile approach warning system (top) and the advanced countermeasures dispenser.

High-speed sequence of the GUARDIAN system defeating a MANPADS missile during live tests.

The operating principle of the GUARDIAN.

Fully Autonomous System Operation

No Operator Intervention

After missile attack has been declared by the sensors, the system automatically initiates defensive measures

1. Missile attack declared – aircraft being tracked

2. False target signal applied to seeker

3. Error signal builds – negatively impacts missile guidance

4. Aircraft no longer in missile field of view Optical breaklock achieved – missile defeated

5. Missile no longer a threat to the aircraft – jamming stopped – ready for next threat!

Apart from the specific case of Israel, there is a general consensus to the effect that flares-based systems are not a workable solution for the generalised protection of commercial aircraft against the MANPADS threat. Despite this, there is an important niche market for the self-defence equipment of commercial- derivative platforms (typically business jets) used for WIP transport and other transport missions that entail a significant risk for terrorist attacks. At the same time, the introduction of pyrophoric decoys, which unlike traditional flares are invisible to the naked eye, effectively eliminates many of the political/ psychological drawbacks of the latter.

The CAMPS (Civil Aircraft Missile Protection System) is a lightweight, integrated self-protection system for high-risk civilian airliners. CAMPS is a joint initiative between Saab Avitronics, Chemring Countermeasures (responsible for the development of the pyrophoric decoys) and Naturelink Aviation, a Soutgh African carrier which operates flights over hostile areas in Africa and the Middle East.

The text of the original ALPA article has been updated by MT editorial staff.

Copyright Moench Verlagsgesellschaft mbH Aug 2007

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