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The Military Government Transportation Hardware Politics

Anti-Missile Technology To Be Tested on Commercial Jets 490

Hugh Pickens writes "As many as three American Airlines passenger jets will be outfitted this spring with laser technology intended to protect planes from missile attacks. The tests, which could involve more than 1,000 flights, will determine how the technology holds up under the rigors of flight. The technology is intended to stop attacks by detecting heat from missiles, then responding in a fraction of a second by firing laser beams to jam the missiles' guidance systems. A Rand study in 2005 estimated it would cost about $11 billion to protect every US airliner from shoulder-fired missiles. Over 20 years, the cost to develop, procure and operate anti-missile systems could hit $40 billion."
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Anti-Missile Technology To Be Tested on Commercial Jets

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  • Moar 9/11 plz! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:58PM (#21936504)

    So if we legitimately have to shoot down an hijacked airliner as we should have in September 2001, we won't be able to shoot an AIM-9 at it, we'll have to get close enough in order to shoot it down with the fighter's gun?

    Why test it on commercial jets when it'd be much more useful on military planes to say help with anti-missile countermeasures such as flares?

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:01PM (#21936536) Homepage Journal
    Number of passenger planes shot down by heat seeking missiles: 0
    Number of passenger planes used as missiles: 3

    So, err, don't you want the ability to shoot down passenger planes? Or is the next step to install "special" missiles on buildings that might have passenger planes flown into them in the future which can bypass the anti-missile system? And if that's the plan, what's to stop them bad guys (who are under every bed) from using those missiles to shoot down the planes?
  • They are weapons (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gznork26 ( 1195943 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (62kronzg)> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:08PM (#21936606) Homepage
    The official description may be that they are defensive, that they are only for jamming the guidance systems of enemy missiles, but they are weapons nonetheless. Once the public has swallowed the innocuous cover story, they can install much more capable systems on commercial aircraft. Any aircraft with weapons installed by the 'Defense" Department is military by nature, regardless of whether it carries civilian passengers. Those passengers will serve as human shields to cow others from shooting down these planes.

    Any nation that allows US commercial aircraft into their airspace has suddenly agreed to letting the US military overfly their countries. Aircraft can be flown by remote control, including commercial aircraft with weapons. This is an extremely dangerous precedent. If another nation tried this, the US government would refuse them entry. Other nations are likely to respond the same way.

    Think of it as closing the US borders by coercing other nations to do it for us.
  • by usrusr ( 654450 ) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:21PM (#21936746) Homepage Journal
    all those other perfectly valid points aside - setting up those systems costs 11 billion (projected). but what does it cost the other side to get past them? if "they" can get one SAM, "they" will also be able to get three, practically for free in comparison to the cost of the defense systems. and high power laser systems, in contrast to what scifi movies try to make us believe, are rarely able to engage multiple targets in short succession. it's also not that far fetched to imagine a quickly rigged prototype guidance system that would not be influenced by laser blinding, also for a fraction of the cost of those billions.

    the good new is that according to the article the airline running those tests seems to be also very sceptical of those systems.
  • by Marcion ( 876801 ) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:22PM (#21936752) Homepage Journal
    About as useful as having a lifejacket under your seat. A large commercial jet has never managed to make a water landing. If they are in a good enough state to consider that, then they can normally find some bit of land to crash the plane into. If not then you are dead already.

    It is just about fear and using fear to control you. Look we protect you with these nonsense lasers. They can't even shoot missiles down with hug stationary lasers in heavily controlled tests, so they have no chance in real life on the butt of a commercial airliner, no chance.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icegreentea ( 974342 ) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:24PM (#21936770)
    no. AA missiles have a perfectly fine time manoeuvering. Something about not having to worry about a 9G turn limit. Not only that, commercial airplanes aren't exactly manoeuverable to begin with. They don't have to be, it's nearly impossible to make them so, so they aren't. Intercepting will be no problem. Especially if they use a radar guided missile. The point of putting in the IR spoofing mechanism is to protect planes from manportable systems (which are pretty much all IR guided) during take off/landing (because manportable systems cannot reach up to cruising height, and presumably any larger threats would be picked up because they're BIG and hard to smuggle).
  • by Brandano ( 1192819 ) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:40PM (#21936916)
    Not sure bout that. This incident [] has not been cleared yet, and some radar tapes that could have been interesting have mysteriously disappeared, including those of an US carrier that was docked in the Naples port. And I have seen some impressive pictures of an Alitalia DC8 landing with a hole between the two left egines after being struck by an IR missile a few years earlier. Apparently the missile couldn't decide between the two engines and struck in the middle. Credit goes for the plane to hold together with both wing spars damaged and a fuel tank punched from side to side not catching fire.
  • by Clueless Moron ( 548336 ) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:04PM (#21937088)

    A perfect opportunity to build a laser-jammer tracking missile.

    Why, as soon as the laser-jammer starts up, instead of tracking the now-lost IR signature, instead switch to a tracking system that uses that nice strong clear laser signal instead!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:25PM (#21937230)
    Take it from a guy who builds it, we did shoot real missiles at it out in the desert. They all missed. Some of them missed by lots and lots. Oh, and the system has a laser, but not one that could either blind another pilot or shoot down another aircraft. A failure is qualified as 1)a startup failure, 2)a failure to declare a valid missile threat (with corresponding impact), 3)a false declaration on a threat that did not exist, or 4)a successful declaration but some other failure of the countermeasure system.
  • Re:how many? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:03PM (#21937476) Homepage Journal
    Actually Akabar more likely today to be equiped with an Iranian launcher paid for by Saudi money. Well, depending the launcher could be from various places such as Russia and China.

    The cold war era missiles that are still around are unusable without refurbishing/maintenance that, at this point, is more expensive than buying a new missile.
  • by brendanoconnor ( 584099 ) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:41PM (#21937720)
    Nearly all the links you posted in regards to Ron Paul are why people DO support him. Most of what he wants would result in SMALLER federal government, which is suppose to be what the conservative party stands for. Unfortunately we have reached the point where neither controlling party has any desire for small government at all, leaving the true conservatives with voting for the lesser of two evils (and we've seen how well this works, evil is still evil after all).

    Ron Paul has always been very verbal in his pro-life anti-abortion stance, so of course he wants to define life as starting at conception, since abortion would then be murder. Building a fence between on the US-Mexico boarder has become a huge issue since many people do not want people coming across the boarder illegally taking up resources from the system but not paying back into them.

    Preventing the Supreme Court from ruling on Establishment Clause is something the feds have no business doing and should be a state issue or even a local issue, not the feds issue. I'm an atheist and certainly do not think laws should be made to keep us out of office simply because we choose not to believe in a god, but on the same token, every inch you give the feds, they take a mile. The state should be left to decide things for themselves.

    Our forefathers warned us about entangling alliances with foreign powers which is exactly what the U.N. is, an entangled alliance between foreign powers <URL:> .

    Ending birthright citizenship would cause absolutely no problems for Americans but would considerably hamper illegal immigrants from crossing the board to have a child simply because doing so would allow it to be an American citizen. Being born on our soil does not make you an American. Having American citizen parents raising you with American beliefs and values makes you an American citizen, the rest is just paperwork.

    With regards to abolishing the IRS: The more you allow the federal government to do, the more they will do. By allowing them to levy taxes (and they sure as hell do levy a nice chunk of change by the way) allows them to fund all these little projects that do absolutely nothing for the people and everything for big business and their own little pet projects (See the article for a perfection example of wasted tax dollars on ideas that have no merit).

    The government shouldn't be telling corporations how to interact with foreign governments unless it poses a risk to our country. Your example does not hurt us in the least. If the American people do not approve of companies actions, they can stop supporting the company any time they wish.

    I will agree with you that him being against gay marriage is a mark against him. It really is none of the governments business who wants to marry who.

    I'm not for the elector college either but then I think the way we vote is poorly setup and only stays around because the two parties in control don't want it to go away, as it benefits them and pushes out any potential third party which may actually bring some needed change.

    The estate tax should be repealed. If you read your own link, how can you possibly be against small families passing on what they earned themselves to their own family. Why should the government get ANYTHING when someone dies? I just can't understand this and am glad he wants to get this repealed.

    Regarding racist remarks, you link doesn't show any of that (maybe the page changed or something or I may not have seen it). The NWO conspiracy thing is nuts, I'll grant you that.

    All and all he has 3 marks against him and everything else for him. Can you possibly say this about any other candidate running?


    P.S. Anti-missile tech does not belong on our commercial airplanes nor will they do anything. I can't recall the last time I heard about a commercial jet being shot out of the sky. This just reeks of government wasting money.
  • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Monday January 07, 2008 @12:23AM (#21938372) Homepage Journal
    If one of your loved ones were on such a flight, would you still be so coldly analytical?

    To a point. I practically score vulcan on personality tests(100% analytical).

    Here's the problem with your point - the pie(governmental money, economy as a whole, take your pick) is only so large at any given point in time. Saying 'oh we can just spend $100 Billion instead' isn't a great answer to my point 'Statistical evidence shows that spending the money in this fashion is unlikely to save any lives, so it's better spent elsewhere'. I know the pie is larger than the $11B this proposed system could cost(assuming no overruns), that it's divided into thousands, even millions of pieces. I'm just arguing about the distribution of the pie.

    Given that my family doesn't fly every day(I'm normally on planes more than they are), and that we've had a number of fatal mall and school shootings in the last five years, yet no fatal manpad missile strikes on commercial aircraft, I think that my family would be safer spending the money to help with creating a system to catch nuts before they go on a rampage than trying to defend against a thus-far almost non-existent and ineffectual threat.
  • Re:how many? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2008 @01:15AM (#21938648)
    Ah, but it won't be, as you put it, 'Akabar with his old Cold War era shoulder launched missile' doing the mods,

    If they go 'hi-tech', and they're a bunch of 'homegrown Akabars', it will most probably be a 'homebrew' system using some form of wireless guidance linked to an optical (hi-res IR ccd) ground based launch-guidance system (or they'll get their CIA paymasters to give them something new and shiny to do the job) rather than a modded Soviet beastie.

    I remember from Afghan War I, early on in that risible game, on TV one night a wonderful bit of film of the Mujahadeen/proto-Taliban trying to Muzzle-load a large (155mm+) caliber Soviet gun of some description they'd just captured, few months later, they were adept at using Soviet systems, and they had Stingers and were using them agin the Soviets..faaast learner is old Akabar, or maybe, just maybe, it was the training the West (UK&US) gave these Mujahadeen/proto-Taliban.

    Please don't underestimate 'Akabar', 'Akabar', or his Iraqi brothers were working on fairly sophisticated Guided Missile related Defence projects with the British (extent of my personal knowledge) at the Time of Gulf War I.
    'Akabar' has a lot of brothers, in lots of places. Even people who aren't 'brothers' of 'Akabar', but who have the requisite skills, could be persuaded to help, one way $$, or another ££.

    'Akabar' has a lot of rich Oily relatives of a similar mindset who could bankroll 'Akabar', merde, we, the West fall over ourselves to give these rich Oily relatives of his lots of our high-tech toys, we even bribe them to buy the fecking things (yet no one seems to ask, "if they'll take money from us, who else will they accept money from, and for what?" ho-hum.

    Even if it costs them 20-30K to develop&build a homebrew pulsejet/whatever guided missile, it will still take out an asset worth 40-100 million, plus all the extra billions in spending the morons in charge will then rush out to give to the defence industries to combat this new threat.

    Why even bother with designing something from scratch, a 3-axis microlight will set you back about 20K, a couple of Kalashnikovs with a hack fire control system fitted, will be about $500 or less, then all you need is a nut-job (no global shortage there) who will fly the thing right up to an airliner at approach/takeoff/taxi and let rip, bearing in mind, he thinks he's on a one-way trip to paradise so he won't require much (if any) in the way of flight training, so wont flag up in all the systems monitoring those of our brethren of a darker skinned persuasion who try to book flying lessons, hell, drop the Kalashnikovs, and bolt a standard RPG (cost, RPG-29 horribly cheap at less than a thousand dollars, ammo included) onto the microlight, mod the firing system, off you go.

    Point of this is, if they want to take an airliner out, they will find a way. This whole thing (laser defence) is part of the generic FUD regarding 'Global Terrorism' we're all supposed to believe.

    What's next: Phalanx type system for civilian aircraft?

    - This should have been posted a couple of hours ago - but got called away to do some Owl and Fox watching

  • Re:how many? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Max Threshold ( 540114 ) on Monday January 07, 2008 @02:48AM (#21939252)
    I could build a fully functional cruise missile for under $1000 using off-the-shelf hardware, and I'm just a tinkerer, not an aerospace engineer. You think Akabar is stupid just because he lives in some festering third-world shithole?
  • Re:how many? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ours ( 596171 ) on Monday January 07, 2008 @03:53AM (#21939606)
    Shoulder mounted missiles cannot reach a plane in cruise altitude either. They would work on take off and landings as well. But they have the advantage of better range, self-tracking and a bigger bang.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ours ( 596171 ) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:52AM (#21939936)
    Well, that is the military solution. Plane/tank/boat gets better defense, fire more bullets/missiles/torpedoes/bombs at the same time. On the good side, it makes the terrorist logistic a bit more complicated getting 2-3-4 MANPADS and people to fire them instead of one. But it will still not make it impossible.
  • Re:how many? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) * <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Monday January 07, 2008 @05:36AM (#21940136) Homepage Journal
    The usual threat scenario for shoulder-fired SAMs are during takeoff and landing as well. You don't use them against an aircraft that's cruising up at 30,000 feet, you use it against one that's just gotten off the runway and is flying away from you. This gives you a plane that's nice and low, is easy to hit (flying away), can't easily land / crash safely, and has a full load of fuel.

    That said, shoulder-fired missiles are a huge step up from machine guns. To say that you can do the same damage with a machine gun is just stupid -- shooting a plane down with a gun is significantly harder and requires much more time on the ground; you can't 'shoot and scoot' like you can with a Stinger or similar.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"