View Full Version : AA to trial "anti-missile technology"

5th Jan 2008, 00:05
I can't see this reported anywhere else...

The UK teletext news is reporting up to 3 American Airlines B767's will be fitted with anti-missile technology in the spring as part of an ongoing trial.


5th Jan 2008, 00:34
I give up, what's the ":eek:" for?

5th Jan 2008, 00:35
Yes, and at the end of the trial period when none of them have been shot down by a terrorist missile, it will be deemed a successful test of a lifesaving technology that should be installed on all passenger aircraft. Meanwhile crews will have to undergo increased security scrutiny, worked harder with less rest for even less money to offset the cost. What a great system!

5th Jan 2008, 00:37
so how are they going to shoot down hijacked aircraft now?

5th Jan 2008, 01:59
It would help, unless the terrorists decide not to use conventional missiles (hard to move about) and decide to use home-made rockets that the anti-missile system wont be able to detect. Or they can just walk in like last time and takeover. Then they'll have GPS precision.

5th Jan 2008, 02:24
For a meaningful trial they will have to be used where terrorists are going to shoot at them, otherwise it is just an academic exercise.
Three means they can be scheduled to go on a daily basis to such places as Baghdad, Kabul and Mogadishu! Will they do normal descents and approaches into such places instead of spiralling maximum rate descents over the airfield? Are they going to try it with pax, freight or empty apart from crew? What escape provision is there for the occupants if the trial fails (they get hit!) – eg ejection seats, parachutes, follow-up choppers to get them off the ground before the terrs reach them, etc? How many successful missile evasions will be needed before the system is declared ready for general use? Where will they recruit the crews from for such a realistic trial and what will the compensation package be?

Two's in
5th Jan 2008, 02:31
This particular "news" comes from Aviation Week - in 2005!


BAE is testing "Jeteye," an adaptation of its AN/ALQ-212 Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (Atircm) system, and Northrop Grumman is testing "Guardian," taken from its AN/AAQ-24(V) Directed Infrared Countermeasures (Dircm) system. Jeteye and Guardian are similar in concept--both have wide-field-of-view, ultraviolet staring-array sensors that cover the lower hemisphere, and a narrow-field-of-view IR tracker in a turret with a boresighted laser jammer. The ultraviolet sensors first detect a potential missile plume and report the location to the IR tracker, which swings into position and locks on. The system compares the UV and IR intensities to check that they match the signature of a missile plume, and not some false target. When verified, the laser emits a narrow, powerful beam of modulated multiband IR light at the missile to confuse its seeker by overpowering the chopped light from the seeker's spinning reticle that's used for guidance.

BAE and teammate American Airlines installed Jeteye on a Boeing 767 at American's engineering and maintenance base at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth. Jeteye has a 6-in.-dia. turret at the bottom of the end of the fuselage constant section. A forward- and aft-looking pair of staring ultraviolet detectors are mounted on each side of the fuselage about 10 deg. above the turret. The electronics boxes are inside the benign environment of the pressure hull. The aircraft made its first flight against a missile simulator on the airport grounds on Nov. 10. The team plans to fly over Houston to see if the bright clutter causes false alarms

5th Jan 2008, 03:49
This technology has other proven benefits.

1. prevents the aircraft from being eaten by polar bears.

2. will promote lower pilot wages to finance this all important technology.

And if the plane needs to get shot down by the air force, they will use radar guided missiles or guns.

The testing is just for operational analysis...though I recall a thread about a rocket near LAX

5th Jan 2008, 12:30
Guns! Guns! Guns! :)

5th Jan 2008, 12:43
Bags not flight testing that!

5th Jan 2008, 15:28
I can think of two incidents where this technology may have helped save lives.... The shooting down of Civilian Aircraft by the American Warship and further back in time, the shooting down of the civilian aircraft by the Russian Mil. But isn't this idea this just adding to the hype and playing into the terrorists hands? Surely a measure of risk management, and personal safety, says I am not going to fly into any War Zone or other high risk area.... We train our military for that and they have the proper skills, equipment and Intel to perform that task.

What will be the next steps? Training the CC to be waist and tail gunners during TO and Landing? (I can just imaging the local airport security... No, you can't take that bottle of water or the leatherman through but the 500 rounds of ammo is ok)

Would aircraft with this system fitted be targeted by highjackers as they should be more difficult to shoot down? Would this become a MEL item :mad:(ie the financial impact if the aircraft was shot at and it was found the system was inop).

The world seems to be getting crazier to me each day... or I am just getting old :{

5th Jan 2008, 15:30
What difference is there between the signature of a missile plume and that of a plane's jet engines or piston engine exhaust, and just how reliable will the detector be in rejecting constant false alarms from the latter?

I can just magine the effect on a flight crew of an intense laser burst from an overflying a/c fitted with one of these systems.

5th Jan 2008, 15:37
If I understood well, this countermeasure would only work against IR guided missiles, so it couldn't have done much against the SM2 being a radar guided missile (launched from the USS Vincennes)... Anyway... If it will be equipped to most of the traffic, mils just gotta make sure that the QRA is equipped with AMRAAMS or Meteor or something using radar homing...

5th Jan 2008, 15:51

I think most SAM systems are solid fuel based so the exhaust composition is different to jet or piston engine exhaust. If you know what the fuel is you can look for its characteristics.

Having a bit of a google showed up this article :


which outlines how the detection technology works and avoids false alerts.

5th Jan 2008, 16:05
Can they please modify for use against laser pens?

Glaring eye sensation, rapid electrical motor noise, ZAP, one less hoody.:E

5th Jan 2008, 16:16
Thanks for the info. What it doesn't say is how low is the low false alarm rate Will it be 1 in 10^3 or 10^6 or 10^9 ?

Given that it will receive many 'friendly' returns on every flight and almost never an 'unfriendly' one, it will need to be almost unimaginably reliable if it is not statistically to degrade safety by the risk of blinding innocent pilots.

And yes I know the laser is supposed to be infra-red but eyes are still sensitive to injury in the IR region, and the jammer is powerful enough to dazzle or damage the seeker of the missile.

Carbon Bootprint
5th Jan 2008, 16:24
El Al fitted its entire fleet with anti-missile technology about two years ago. Is this news only because an "American Airline" has decided to give it a try? :rolleyes:

5th Jan 2008, 20:59
Fact is that the next terrorist attack will be from outside, not from the inside of a plane, i.e. a missile attack. I would assume that this test is not only about protection but mainly about operational experience on a passenger plane.


5th Jan 2008, 21:48
El Al fitted its entire fleet with anti-missile technology about two years ago.

I stand to be corrected, but isn't that a more conventional technology borrowed from the military?

Captain Sensible
6th Jan 2008, 05:40
No risk of anyone being blinded; the emissions are very short range, and the whole event from detection to defeat takes only a very few seconds.

6th Jan 2008, 06:50
from the article in USA today.
that detect a heat-seeking missile and shoot a laser at it to send the missile veering harmlessly off course.

like into a school or a hospital?



6th Jan 2008, 12:09
No risk of anyone being blinded; the emissions are very short range, and the whole event from detection to defeat takes only a very few seconds.
That sounds comforting Capt Sensible but I would prefer a more objective assessment.
According to the quoted article,
"preliminary evaluation of the sensor to be developed, using Ofil’s proprietary technology, points to a detection capability of UV emitting threats from a distance of 4-5 km"
In contrast, another aircraft might be only 1000 feet below. At that range a laser powerful enough to disable a missile could be crippling to human eyesight.

6th Jan 2008, 12:29
Sallyann1234, all ECM (electronic counter measure) is borrowed from the military. The "AA version" is no difference.

It is not completly known which technology (active, passive or a mix of it) is used in El Al, as in every VIP aircraft flying around the world with ECMs. And I'm pretty sure they wont tell you.

If they are producing too many false alarms ... - well, that's what they want to find out.


6th Jan 2008, 14:30
Here is the BAE Systems' news release issued last Friday evening (GMT) on the subject:


NASHUA, New Hampshire — BAE Systems has received a $29 million award from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to test JETEYE, its infrared aircraft missile defense system, on passenger aircraft. The tests will evaluate the system’s compatibility with daily passenger airline operations and maintenance.

The latest contract is for the third phase of research and development on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) counter-man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) program. There will be no testing of the JETEYE system’s missile-defeating capability, as that testing was done at government test ranges as part of an earlier phase of the program.

As part of the, counter-MANPADS program BAE Systems will install its JETEYE aircraft missile defense system on up to three American Airlines aircraft.

Burt Keirstead, director of commercial aircraft programs for BAE Systems said:

“From the beginning, we actively engaged with U.S. cargo and passenger carriers to commercialize our technology to meet the needs of the airlines. We’re confident that the passenger-aircraft phase of the program will provide valuable data for DHS’s findings, providing critical, fact-based information to the airline industry and policy-makers.”

The JETEYE system is based on BAE Systems’ existing directable infrared countermeasures technology, used to protect military aircraft. With this award, JETEYE will be the only system installed on military cargo and passenger aircraft.

Craig Barton, American Airlines managing director said:

“American Airlines is pleased to continue its partnership with BAE Systems and is fully committed to supporting and participating in the passenger airline evaluation phase of the DHS’s counter-MANPADS program. We believe this is a key step toward understanding the true impact of the technology and operational models on the airline industry. “

DHS selected BAE Systems in 2004 to adapt the company’s military countermeasures technology to protect commercial aircraft against shoulder-fired missiles. Since then, BAE Systems has received $105 million in funding, and has delivered more than 14,000 infrared countermeasure systems worldwide — more than all other participating companies combined.

The counter-MANPADS program, created by DHS and Congress, is designed to commercialize proven military technology and gauge its suitability for protecting U.S. commercial aircraft by evaluating its performance, impact on aerodynamic drag, weight, reliability, maintainability, and system cost.

The company has already tested build and fit of the system on an AA 767, which was not operating passenger services. It does not involve an 'upturned canoe' being fitted to the belly of the airframe, but instead has some small sensors and a point and track head, within which the laser system is fitted. The technology is an adaptation of that already fitted to military and VIP fleets.

6th Jan 2008, 15:07
All very interesting.
Perhaps I'm being paranoid but what concerns me is the concept of a 'false alarm'. It sounds innocuous enough but the firing system has to be entirely automated for obvious reasons. There will be no human intervention or moderation. If 'false alarm' means that the laser is fired at an aircraft instead of a missile, that is a serious matter.

Is this equipment going to be more reliable than any other electronic gear in an aircraft? Most safety-critical equipment is extremely reliable and has very low levels of failure or false alarm, but yet is still duplicated or triplicated. Yet here we have an equipment that if it fails could potentially be a threat to any other aircraft which it overflies, with no backup or crosscheck from another instrument.
Divide the MTBFF (mean time between false firing!) by the thousands of aircraft that will be flying with it, and the danger of an accident seems very real.

Perhaps we should all be wearing IR-filtered goggles?

6th Jan 2008, 15:48
Anti-missile technology has been used by the military for many years. The military has many aircraft, large transports as well as small fighters, going in and out of places such as Baghdad. Do anti-missile systems work on these aircraft, particularly the larger transport types? If so, then install them on civil transport aircraft. If not, then further research and testing using military aircraft is needed. I fail to see why these systems now need to be “tested” on civilian B767s. Either they have already been proved to work by the military or they do not work. If they do work, then quit wasting time and get on with protecting the travelling public!

Note the comment above that the system under consideration only works against infra-red seeking missiles. A partial solution is no good. Aircraft must also have protection against radar, radio and wire guided missiles. Underestimating one’s enemy is a mistake. Do people really think that the sophisticated terrorist organisations we face will in future use only infra-red seeking missiles against aircraft, particularly knowing that the aircraft might be protected against such missiles? Of course not! They will soon get their hands on radar guided and other types of missiles that exploit the gaps in the protection. All round anti-missile protection is needed.

There have been many incidents of airliners being hit by missiles. Those mentioned by Outlook are just a start. Three more that I can immediately think of are the two Air Rhodesia Viscounts that were shot down and the DHL Airbus that stopped a missile at Baghdad two or three years ago. I remember an El Al aircraft being attacked by missile in East Africa a few years ago, although it seems this aircraft might have escaped because it had some sort of anti-missile protection.

This is a very serious threat that I feel is likely to increase. Unfortunately the half-hearted and foot-dragging way in which it is being handled does not give me any comfort that the travelling public is likely to receive meaningful protection against this very real risk anytime soon.

6th Jan 2008, 16:39
Carrier: The system, or variants of it, already works well on both military (rotary and fixed wing) and VIP fleets but the fact is that cost and ease of maintenance considerations are different for commercial airlines.

Whatever any of us would like to think, the impact on cost per seat mile flown will be the primary consideration for the bean counters at any airline. Fitting the system to operational passenger aircraft is the only way of checking the actual impact on finances through any increase in drag or weight, the robustness of the systems in day-to-day commercial operations and ease of maintenance by line engineers away from base.

You are right to suggest that false alarms would be problem, but this is well understood by the manufacturers, true for any aircraft (albeit to a differing degree) and may not be the issue you think it is.

The threats are understood from current military operations in various parts of the world and are largely from man portable shoulder launched missile systems, of the type this system is designed to counter. It would surprise you just how easy it is to acquire one of these system, which I understand can be effective up to >10,000ft, hence the Department of Homeland Security's programme.

More generally, I live in the hope that the boffins involved are doing everything possible to keep one step ahead of those characters on the other side that spend their time trying to do the same.

Captain Sensible
7th Jan 2008, 10:48
Yes Sallyann, detection distance by the sensors is as you say a couple of miles, but the emissions from the turrets to confuse the missile is very short range, can't really say what as I signed a thingy somewhere. There are false alarms which the automatics cope with.

8th Jan 2008, 17:14
I would be interested how a system such as this would be classified from an MEL perspective.

Would it (or could it) be classed as a No Go item?