FAA rejects FedEx proposal to install missile defense system on Airbus planes

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday it was withdrawing proposed conditions that could have allowed supplier FedEx to install laser-based missile defenses on the jetmaker’s Airbus A321-200 planes.

The FAA said Tuesday it “determined that further internal studies are necessary.” The FAA said, to avoid confusion, “a comment period on a suggestion that the agency is not moving forward at this time, the FAA is withdrawing the notice.” FedEx did not comment Tuesday and the FAA declined to comment beyond the withdrawal to express.

The FAA said Friday it was proposing terms and opening the proposal for public comment.

In October 2019, FedEx applied for approval to use a feature that emits infrared laser energy outside the aircraft as a countermeasure against heat-seeking missiles, the FAA announced Friday.

Some FedEx aircraft use infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) technology to protect commercial aircraft from ground-based shoulder-launched missile attacks.
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For decades, the airline industry and several governments have grappled with the threat to commercial aircraft from shoulder-launched missiles known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADs. Some use infrared systems to target an aircraft’s engines.

“The FedEx missile defense system directs infrared laser energy at an incoming missile to disrupt it

the missile tracks the heat of the plane,” the FAA document said.

According to the US State Department, more than 40 civilian aircraft have been struck by MANPADs since the 1970s.

A jet with the FedEx logo
FedEx participated in a US test of missile defense technology for civilian aircraft.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In November 2002, two missiles narrowly missed an Arkia Israeli Airlines Boeing 757 on takeoff from Mombasa Airport, and efforts to counter the threat accelerated.

In 2003, an Airbus A300 freighter flown by DHL was damaged by MANPADs and forced to make an emergency landing in Baghdad.

In 2007 and 2008, FedEx — better known for its package delivery service — participated in a US government attempt at anti-missile defense technology for civilian aircraft by installing Northrop Grumman’s Guardian countermeasures system on some commercial cargo flights, while BAE Systems said it had installed one JetEye system on an American Airlines aircraft.

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