Millions for MANPADS

The US Department of Homeland Security has awarded BAE Systems $29m to test a system that will protect passenger aircraft against shoulder-fired missiles.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded BAE Systems $29m to test an infrared aircraft missile defence system on passenger aircraft. The latest contract is for the third phase of the DHS counter-man-portable air defence system (MANPADS) programme.

As part of the DHS counter-MANPADS project, BAE Systems will install its JETEYE aircraft missile defence system on up to three American Airlines aircraft. The company will evaluate the system’s compatibility with daily passenger airline operations and maintenance.

The contract will not involve testing of the JETEYE system’s missile-defeating capability, which was done at US government test ranges as part of an earlier phase of the programme.

‘From the beginning, we actively engaged with US cargo and passenger carriers to commercialise our technology to meet the needs of the airlines,’ said Burt Keirstead, director of commercial aircraft programs for BAE Systems. ‘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’ directable infrared countermeasures technology, which is used to protect military aircraft. With this award, JETEYE will be the only system installed on military cargo and passenger aircraft.

‘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,’ said Craig Barton, American Airlines managing director. ’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 $105m in funding, and has delivered more than 14,000 infrared countermeasure systems worldwide.

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