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Anti-Missile Defenses For Commercial Jets 594

Posted by kdawson
from the asymetrical-warfare dept.
The AP reports that the first anti-missile defense system has been installed for testing on a commercial jet, a FedEx cargo carrier. The system is intended to detect the launch of a shoulder-fired missile at takeoff or landing, and disable the missile with a laser beam. Sen. Barbara Baxter (D-California) is one of the supporters of the system. She and other members of Congress are hoping to equip all US commercial passenger liners with this system in 20 years, at a cost of billions of dollars. Is this good common sense or the costly future of a society hobbled by fear of terrorism?
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Anti-Missile Defenses For Commercial Jets

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  • Anyone know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by solevita (967690) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:01PM (#17665362)
    When the last time this system would have saved an aircraft?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grey Ninja (739021)
      Probably never. Shoulder fired missiles are usually infra red seeking. Which is a passively homing missile. I honestly don't know how the hell you would detect such a missile tracking you. As far as I knew, even military jets have no early warning of IR missiles.
      • Re:Anyone know (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:13PM (#17665596) Journal
        They do, they're just harder to track than radar guided missiles. It's basically a "Interesting, there's now a small object traveling at Mach 8 right for me" kind of system.
        • by spineboy (22918) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:57PM (#17666450) Journal
          What if the US spends less money on defense , and instead behaves less like a dick. Instead we should concentrate on being a little less arrogant, and be more world friendly. Foreign relations has really taken a turn or the worse in the last 6 years or so. Or we can continue the current trend, and then just travel everywhere in personal sized mini tanks, with anti missile/IUD technology.

          People keep on trying to put bandages on the problem, instead of addressing what is actually wrong, kind of like treating a fever with some aspirin, instead of treating the infection.
          • >Foreign relations has really taken a turn or the worse in the last 6 years or so.

            What had bin Laden's gang cheesed off was the US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, something which went back to 1990. And which might not even have been arrogant, except for the complete failure to realize how humiliating it was to the Saudi people to be reminded that they were incapable of defending themselves.

            Since there are people in the Middle East who are still stoked on outrage over the outcome of World War I, it woul
      • Re:Anyone know (Score:5, Informative)

        by russ1337 (938915) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:41PM (#17666158)
        >>>> I honestly don't know how the hell you would detect such a missile tracking you

        They detect the flame out the back of the missle. Chemicals given off by the rocket motor burn across the spectrum (visible, UV and Infra-red). The optical sensors on the aircraft pick up the burning, specifically in the UV range. Sunlight in this spectrum does not get through the upper atmosphere, so it is essentially "dark". Only a few other things emit at this range are things like arc-welders, but software can be used to eliminate these to improve the false alarm rate.

        >>> "As far as I knew, even military jets have no early warning of IR missiles. " Oh yes they do. [globalsecurity.org]
        • by fbjon (692006)
          In other news, a man was killed by perforation at Los Angeles Intl., when he foolishly fired up a welding torch on the airfield.
      • Re:Anyone know (Score:5, Insightful)

        by flyingsquid (813711) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:08PM (#17666660)
        Terrorists aren't dumb, but we keep acting like they are. They know they can't rush an aircraft with just a handful of boxcutters: the passengers would turn on them and tear them limb from limb. 9/11 only worked because of the element of surprise, it wouldn't work again. Yet the government keeps preparing ways to keep us safe from another 9/11 attack. Likewise, why are they going to bother going after aircraft when so many easy targets are available?


        Terrorists will just attack somewhere else. The most obvious target is mass transit. Leave a bunch of bombs on the New York Subway, just like they did with the trains in Madrid- that would probably be a lot easier than smuggling a Stinger missile into the US. Or plant an IED on the Northwest Corridor and wait for a packed Acela train to go over it. Plant a limpet mine on the bottom of a ferry- if you can sink it fast enough you could kill a few hundred people.

        It's all just a show: most of the security efforts I've seen in place do comparatively little to make anyone safer, they're just designed to make us *feel* safer. They're not security, they're a security blanket.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by a_nonamiss (743253)
          Dude! You're giving the terrorists too many ideas. I'm sure they have never thought of those, and going onto a public forum and posting these ideas is treason! You're a terrorist. Now we can arrest you, detain you without a hearing, and never give you a trial.

          You terrorists make me sick.
        • by Zaatxe (939368) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:42PM (#17667372)
          - Knock-knock
          - Who is there?
          - CIA.
          - CIA who?
          - See I a terrorist with too many ideas for attacks!
        • Re:Anyone know (Score:5, Insightful)

          by solevita (967690) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @03:18PM (#17668110)
          It's all just a show: most of the security efforts I've seen in place do comparatively little to make anyone safer, they're just designed to make us *feel* safer. They're not security, they're a security blanket.

          Controversial, perhaps, but I'd argue that these measures aren't designed to make us feel safer, but more afraid.

          We little people are so at risk, what would we do without the government to save us?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Chris Burke (6130)
            it's a careful balancing act -- keep people afraid so that they're willing to go along, but not so afraid that they decide you aren't keeping them safe enough. Most of these "security" measures fall into the latter category in my opinion. An example of the first is no more apparent than in the HSA threat level. Over Christmas all throughout the airports the voice on the intercom kept saying "Be advised that Homeland Security has raised the threat level to orange." What can I possibly do with that inform
        • Re:Anyone know (Score:4, Interesting)

          by samantha (68231) * on Thursday January 18, 2007 @06:46PM (#17672498) Homepage
          There is no way that 911 happened the way the official story claims. I wish people would stop pretending it did. For one thing, 6 of the named terrorist purportedly responsible are known to be very much alive and not involved at all. For another there is the inconvenient free fall collapse speed of the buildings. Go research it. The truth is out there.

          Terrorism is not our primary problem. Not even close. That people believe it is and let themselves get railroaded by believing it is a large problem. What "everyone knows" is almost invariably what some powerful groups want them to "know".

        • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @07:02PM (#17672790) Homepage Journal
          >most of the security efforts I've seen in place do comparatively little to make anyone safer

          If the government had public safety as a goal, then it wouldn't have dropped security standards for chemical plants. If there's a manmade Bhopal in New Jersey, it's because the government chose not to prevent it.

          If the government had public safety as a goal, there would have been screening for port personnel sometime in the five years after 9/11, and ABC news wouldn't have been able to put a steel cylinder with a uranium slug in it into a cargo container shipped from an area of al-Qaeda activity. Twice.

          If the government had public safety as a goal, the intolerably dangerous liquids confiscated from passengers wouldn't have been poured into barrels in the middle of crowds.

          Remember, the next time another chunk of Constitution is violated and the government says it's to protect public safety, that public safety is not the government's goal.
    • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:09PM (#17665514) Journal
      Just last week, on a connector flight from Des Moines International Airport to Minneapolis, we came under heavy flak around Albert Lea. Don't believe what the pilot is telling you: This is NOT turbulence, it's the Terrorists with Flak 88s trying to shoot down airliners. Should the Democrats ever surrender a supply of shoulder-launched heatseaking missiles to the Terrorists, this system will save countless lives.

      Off-topic, but does anyone know where I can get a lithium refill around here?

      • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:22PM (#17665758) Homepage Journal
        Are you trying to be funny? Were you attempting to use your humor skills on Slashdot readers? Are you an idiot? Do you realize that Slashdot readers cannot recognise humor without a humor detection program? Oh, you're going to suffer. You think you're so smart, but you will SUFFER for your attempt at humor. We don't WANT it here. Humor is spam to us. We don't want anything funny here. Take your funny and go home. GET OUT . LEave with your funny comments now. Don't come back until you can be serious like me.

        (This has been a public service announcement to let you know what the dumbass who moderated you as a troll was thinking.)
    • Re:Anyone know (Score:5, Informative)

      by haeger (85819) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:09PM (#17665516)
      Well, it does seem to happen every now and then.
      Can't say which one was the last one though.

      The link. [wikipedia.org]

      .haeger

    • Re:Anyone know (Score:5, Informative)

      by Otter (3800) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:10PM (#17665536) Journal
      There was a missile fired at an Israeli passenger jet in Kenya on the same day as the hotel bombing there, a few years ago. Supposedly it was deflected by an ECM system that's standard (again, supposedly) on all Israeli passenger planes.

      How cost-effective this is on your JetBlue flight from Topeka to Boise is another question, of course.

      • Re:Anyone know (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Total_Wimp (564548) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:35PM (#17666036)
        So one plane in the history of aviation might have been saved. Maybe

        I think this would make good terrorist MasterCard commercial:

        A year of nationalized health care in Canada = about $1,900
        A year of food in American = about $3,000
        A habitat for humanity house = about $35,000

        Scaring Americans into spending "billions" to possibly save between zero and a couple of hundred lives instead of spending it where it's guaranteed to make a difference = Priceless

        TW
    • Re:Anyone know (Score:4, Informative)

      by Grey Ninja (739021) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:10PM (#17665542) Homepage Journal
      Addendum to my previous post. (I was right. It was never).

      From TFA:

      No passenger plane has ever been downed by a shoulder-fired missile outside of a combat zone. But terrorists linked with al Qaeda are believed to have fired two SA-7 missiles that narrowly missed an Israeli passenger jet after it took off from Mombasa, Kenya, in November 2002.

      (Please note that SA-7 missiles are IR guided).
      • Not to mention... (Score:5, Informative)

        by DG (989) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:50PM (#17667530) Homepage Journal
        ...the considerably unlikely chain of events that has to properly line up in order to result in a downed aircraft.

        1) First you have to get ahold of a missile. Hollywood notwithstanding, shoulder-launched SAMs are relatively rare, even in mainstream standing armies. The scales of issue just aren't all that large. They are expensive and fragile units, much more so than any other weapon, so they don't get handed out to just anyone.

        Probably the largest concentration was in North Vietnam during the 60's, but North Vietnam had tons of time to accumulate them, and a direct threat (daily US bombing raids) to counter.

        There just aren't a lot of them out there to be had.

        2) Then, if you can find one, it has to be operational. Explosives and electronics have shelf-lives, and as mentioned, these things are fragile. If it hasn't been well treated, there's a nontrivial chance that some critical component will fail to function, and it won't fire, guide, or explode.

        3) If you've got one and it is operational, then you have to find a trained operator. Even "fire and forget" missiles require some skill to operate, and even if the weapon is American-proof simple to use, the operator still needs to be familiar with the ideal operating envelope - what aspect should the target be engaged with (head-on? tailchaser? deflection?) Does the position of the sun matter? Do you aim at an engine, or centre of mass? Lead or lag?

        4) Assuming an operational missile and a trained operator who takes a good shot, the accuracy rate of these devices is not high. I'd imagine a commercial jet would be an easier target (although with cooler running turbofan engines, maybe not) but even so, there is a high statistical percentage of these missiles that will fail to impact even when fired in perfect conditions - they work best in volleys.

        5) Assuming a hit, the odds on downing the aircraft are not good. Airliners are big, solid aircraft, and shoulder-fired missiles by design cannot have very large warheads - you have to package propulsion, guidance, and warhead into something light enough to be carried by a single person. Being struck by a missile is certainly unpleasant, but I'd expect any modern airliner to be able to suffer catastrophic failure of a single engine and still be able to fly (long enough to get back down at least). That's not to say that the missile *couldn't* bring down a liner (sever the controls to a control surface and I think you've got a crash) but neither are you looking at a Hollywood style giant fireball.

        While it is certainly *possible* that one could experience a terrorist organization bringing together a fresh missile, a trained operator, and a lucky shot, it's not very *likely* - to the point where I think the defensive device is just silly.

        DG
    • When the last time this system would have saved an aircraft?

      Off the top of my head, never. However, it will probably make a whole lot of people 'feel' safe. And, in the end, that's what matters today. A few billion for a sense of safety? That's nothing.

      She and other members of Congress are hoping to equip all US commercial passenger liners with this system in 20 years, at a cost of billions of dollars. Is this good common sense or the costly future of a society hobbled by fear of terrorism?

      How is

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "How is this 'costly'? How many human lives would be lost as you install these defense systems in passenger liners? I don't think any'

        Just all the lives that would be saved (better health care, etc.) if this money were better spent.
      • by nido (102070) <nido56@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:47PM (#17666276) Homepage
        It just has to be something that counteracts the fear that some Americans live with.

        The simple fact of the matter is that there is nothing to be afraid of, and Americans are only afraid because of the corporate media propaganda machine.

        A False Sense of Insecurity? [pdf] [cato.org] [google cache] [216.239.59.104]:

        Throughout all this, there is a perspective on terrorism that has been very substantially ignored. It can be summarized, somewhat crudely, as follows:
        • Assessed in broad but reasonable context, terrorism generally does not do much damage.
        • The costs of terrorism very often are the result of hasty, ill-considered, and overwrought reactions.
        A sensible policy approach to the problem might be to stress that any damage terrorists are able to accomplish likely can be
        absorbed, however grimly. While judicious protective and policing measures are sensible,extensive fear and anxiety over what may at base prove to be a rather limited problem are mis-placed, unjustified, and counterproductive


        I don't know that I've yet seen an apology from a newspaper's editors for being taken by last summer's "liquid bomb plot". They can't, of course, because they're selected by the paper's corporate owners to advance the "consolidation of power" agenda. If the media barons were to suddenly say "sorry, there never really was anything to fear, and 9/11 might have actually been a 'false flag' operation..." Well - however would George Bush justify setting up permanent bases in Iraq, and his plans to attack Iran and Syria?
      • by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:05PM (#17666600) Homepage
        It occurs to me that you might be trying to be funny, but I'll respond anyway.

        However, it will probably make a whole lot of people 'feel' safe.
        It does the opposite - people know there are defensive missiles on the plane, so they get more scared because the thought of a SAM never occurred to them before. Plus, they will likely get a red/orange/yellow/green warning light stating the likelyhood of getting attacked on this flight. It is fearmongering.

        And as long as that billions of dollars goes back into the economy of the United States, it's not like we'd be losing billions of dollars.
        You misunderstand economics: They money doesn't just go in a circle and come back where it started. Even if you used all domestic workers and parts, which is impossible in today's economy, money is still lost. Materials are mined, energy and time are spent. Wasted money is wasted money.

        If that still doesn't make sense, consider this: The only time that this cycle reaches near 100% cyclic efficiency is if you pay a domestic worker for a labor-only task. Ex: A wealthy guy pays someone to wash their yacht. Of course, even that isn't a perfect cycle since water and gas to drive there and food and electricity and soap were all consumed in the process.

        These defense systems for passenger jets are a drop in the bucket compared to the war in Iraq.
        If we used that logic, then we would spend money on everything and anything. Because, it surely is cheaper than the war in Iraq! That's not an argument FOR doing this. It is an argument AGAINST the war.

        Let me concede you your idea though: If the goal is to make people think they are safe, and to make terrorists think it isn't worth trying -- then we should test a system like this, then pretend to install it.
  • by Monkeyman334 (205694) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:02PM (#17665388)
    A shoulder fired rocket can not shoot that high. The plane is much more vulnerable when it is taking off or landing. So ... they should just install them at big airports to protect all jets coming in or out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbrutus (71639)
      If they are fixed installations, they can be factored into an attack. If they travel with the plane, it's much harder to take them out.
      • cost benefit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:24PM (#17665822) Journal
        How about a cost/benefit analysis of such a system before we knee jerk expensive solution to a low risk problem.

        The problem here is that people equate one 450 person aircraft with more value that of 40,000 fatalities due to automobile accidents.

        Air travel is one of the safest forms of travel, bar none. We don't need to spend BILLIONS of dollars making it safer, mainly because it isn't going to make it much safer.

        It all sounds good, but really, it is a waste.
    • If they are that low why not just use an optically guided, or even guided by wire, missile?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:26PM (#17665888)
      These systems blind the missile by painting it with a laser, disrupting the sensor at the tip of the missile. It doesn't seem like such a system will work unless the missile and laser are pointing at each other so a ground based system might be pointless.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by russ1337 (938915)
      >>>"A shoulder fired rocket can not shoot that high......So ... they should just install them at big airports to protect all jets coming in or out."

      From here [wikipedia.org] "Light to carry and relatively easy to operate, the FIM-92 Stinger is a passive surface-to-air missile, shoulder-fired by a single operator, although officially it requires two. The FIM-92B can attack aircraft at a range of up to 15,700 feet (4800 m) and at altitudes between 600 and 12,500 feet (180 and 3800 m)."

      So yeah, You are in dan
  • by rhavenn (97211) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:03PM (#17665394)
    An absolute waste of money. The only thing it's good for is making defense contractors richer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spike2131 (468840)
      Yeah, think of how many lives could be saved if the billions of dollars this will cost was instead spent on this was spent on, say, childhood immunizations, prenatal care, or automobile safety. Why do we spend money for creating the appearance of action against obscure but frightening risks, instead of focusing on less glamorous areas where our efforts can actually make a difference?

      Must be because terrorists hate freedom.
  • Market... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m0rph3us0 (549631) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:04PM (#17665406)
    Why not just let airlines install the devices as the market demands, a portion of the market will want protection and a portion will not. The added cost will allow consumers to decide whether the protection is "worth it".
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cold fjord (826450)

      Sure, lets do that right after we adopt the same strategy for food, autos, toys, and workplace safety since we know that markets are perfect, people are rational and make sound judgements about risk, and the interplay between people and markets can be relied upon to produce the best outcome in almost all cases. That explains why MS Windows runs well over 90% of all PCs.

      • Re:Market... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:31PM (#17667122) Homepage
        Funny you should mention risk. Well, as we all know (or we all should know, before making snide comments about the topic :) people have a scientifically documented tendency to greatly overestimate risks that are perceived as out of their control compared to risks that are in their control. This is why people are more afraid of flying or of terrorist attacks than they are of driving to work. This is why some people will clamor for something mildly ridiculous like an anti-missile laser to be put on all airplanes, but may or may not buckle up in their cars.
  • Brilliant! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:04PM (#17665418) Journal
    The system is intended to detect the launch of a shoulder-fired missile at takeoff or landing, and disable the missile with a laser beam.

    What a great idea! Now when the terrorists eventually take over another round of planes, they can effectively block missiles intended to shoot them down before reaching sensitive targets.


    How about if next, we equip subway cars with nuclear self-destruct devices so terrorists can't use them to make their speedy getaways?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Radon360 (951529)

      I think the system is designed to address the more primitive weapons, such as the rocket-propelled grenade, that rely upon good aim prior to launching. AFAIK, it's still pretty hard to shoot down a plane with such a primitive weapon, anyway.

      Military technology that is specifically designed to shoot down a plane using an air-to-air missile, or even surface-to-air missile is much more sophisticated, and has a very good chance of defeating such a system at this point.

    • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:15PM (#17665626) Homepage Journal
      What a great idea! Now when the terrorists eventually take over another round of planes, they can effectively block missiles intended to shoot them down before reaching sensitive targets.

      The system will be mounted on the belly of the aircraft, so an air-to-air missile launched from above will not be affected by it. It's possible to perform aerobatics in a passenger aircraft (rolls and such) but even so it is highly unlikely that a system designed to detect the launch of a ground-to-air missile could do anything about air-to-air missiles. If they could, then every aircraft in the military arsenal of sufficient size to carry the system would have one already, for missile point defense in flight.

      In addition, passenger craft are subsonic (with a notable exception or two) while any contemporary jet is supersonic, and passenger craft are ungainly pigs compared to fighter aircraft. Thus you don't even need missiles; cannons would do the job just fine. You could literally line up and blow off the engines without substantial effort.

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:04PM (#17665428)
    I'd assume you can get a few chaffs and flares for cheap these days. No need for all this fancy and probably expensive laser stuff.
  • Need? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:05PM (#17665430) Homepage Journal
    Just out of curiosity, how many commercial airliners in the US have been shot down with shoulder fired missiles? I haven't had any luck trying to find an instance in Google.

    I could see a system like this for a plane that has to fly over Iraq or South Africa, but inside of the US/Canada/Europe/Australia/Asia it doesn't seem to be necessary, worse, a system like this is probably going to require massive power and have considerable complexity. Highly complex pieces of equipment are liable to malfunction at some point and possibly even cause a crash.

    No, installing something like this in every airplane in the US fleet is just not realistic. Having it as an option for people who have to fly near areas where terrorists have shoulder fired missiles and a grudge against the west is good though.
    • They are aiming at 20 years in the future. This is a test release on a single aircraft. They want the system to be feasible and cheap in 20 years, when they feel it will probably be needed (and yea, saleable to the middle east / Africa / etc)
    • Re:Need? (Score:5, Informative)

      by beacher (82033) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:03PM (#17666576) Homepage
      I can tell you this based on my direct experience as a Stinger gunner.

      Shoulder fired anti aircraft missiles are built primarily to shoot combat jets out of the sky. The amount of explosives (less than a pound of something like HT3) is negligible. The missile's primary objective is to rip the skin open of the wings/fuselage, having the explosive go off inside the jet is a bonus. The sheer air friction of a torn fuselage will rip a small jet apart.

      Apply this to a commercial airliner. Most missiles will hit the fuselage, and lets assume a gaping hole was created. The most that will happen will be rapid decompression (at altitude), significant flight handling differences, and maybe some people will get sucked out of the plane. More than likely a commercial airliner would land after being hit with a shoulder fired SAM. The only chance of taking out a significant chunk of the plane would be to hit it just after takeoff and get the fuel tanks, but you can't exactly pick where you want the missile to hit the plane.

      They should invest the research funds towards making better baggage scanners.
      -B
  • stop making shoulder-launched missles?

  • Billions of dollars spent on paranoid, non-deterrent rubbish such as this is just stupid. This money can be used to give our Americans fighting overseas better equipment, or heck it can be used to help families in need. There are countless ways to use such funds more wisely, and to greater benefit. The fact that our government has this kind of money to literally just toss about aimlessly, and continues to do so, really bothers me.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      And don't forget. She is a Democratic.
      I hate to say it but this is one of the reasons that people that hate the republican party with a passion tick me off. The party doesn't matter.
      My senator is tying to force the navy to keep an Aircraft carrier that the Navy says they want to retire! He is also a democrat.

      The reason Boxer supporting this bill is simple.
      It will bring billions of dollars to defense contractors that are in her state.
      That means jobs and contributions so she can get reelected.
  • Oops... (Score:2, Funny)

    by rbarreira (836272)
    Adapted from military technology, Guardian is designed to detect a missile launch and then direct a laser to the seeker system on the head of the missile and disrupt its guidance signals.

    Is it a bird? Is it an airplane? Is it Superman? No, it's a missile crashing into the airport terminal!
  • by RiotXIX (230569)
    I'm glad they didn't have this running during 911.
  • Made in California? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spike2131 (468840) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:08PM (#17665500) Homepage
    Sen. Barbara Baxter (D-California) is one of the supporters of the system.

    These expensive new anti-missile systems wouldn't happen to be made in Senator Boxer's home state of California, would they?
    • I was going to ask the same question. I could research it, but that would be like researching whether the MPAA or RIAA was behind some new piece of copyright legislation - i.e. pointless..."of course they are".
    • by RingDev (879105) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:45PM (#17666230) Homepage Journal
      The 'Guardian' product is developed by Northrop Grumman, which, you guessed it! Has offices in California:

        Northrop Grumman Corporation
      Corporate Headquarters
      1840 Century Park East
      Los Angeles, California 90067-2199
      (310) 553-6262

      Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
      One Northrop Grumman Avenue
      El Segundo, California 90245
      (310) 332-1000

      Northrop Grumman Space Technology
      One Space Park
      Redondo Beach, California 90278
      (310) 812-4321

      -Rick
  • by Skadet (528657) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:08PM (#17665510) Homepage
    Wow. Running in debt, passenger cabins that aren't clean, meals that have been cut from shorter flights, and all on top of *higher ticket prices*. Now they want to install frickin' laser beams? That'll do wonders for affordability. Maybe a nice fat Government subsidy is in order?

    Fantastic. Just fantastic.
  • Why doesn't the US just stop making missiles and selling them to terrorists?
  • Security is a Joke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr_Blank (172031) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:12PM (#17665582) Journal
    There is no such thing as security. Whatever one person can put together, another person can take apart. Virus scanners, the locks on my house and home, and the passwords on my bank accounts are all meant for one thing: To keep honest people honest. If someone really wants to, any security I could encumber some part of my life with can be undone by someone of focused malicious intent.

        The more society spends on 'security' the harder it is to undo that security. Build a Great Wall of China and it keeps the invaders out. Build a Great Wall of the Rio Grande and it keeps the Mexican immigrants out. But given time or motivation, invaders and immegrants find ways around the walls.

        The more society relies on 'security' the more devestating it is when that security fails. These planes will have protection against missles (how many times have planes been shot down by missles anyhow?!). I am sure some motivated criminal will determine that using a high powered large caliber rifle or remote controlled airplane with C4 attached works just as well for bringing down a plane; or something else we haven't even considered.

        In my view, the only way to minimize acts of terror, keep illegal immigrants at home, and make the world 'safe' is with economic development. If a person has a full stomach and something to do with their hands so they can avoid hunger tomorrow, then that person is too happy and busy to 'terrorize' or risk life and limb crossing the dessert.

        Money spent on walls, airline bomb closets and anti-air to air missle lazers, and even super cool rail guns are all poor investments, in my view. Better to spend the money on starting businesses, funding schools, and giving incentives to entrapeneurs. If everyone is fed and busy, the world is as safe as it could be (though still not perfectly safe).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    While MADPADS (MAn Portable Air Defense Systems) are a threat, albeit a very small one, the real threat to aviation is CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) and ground accidents. It seems like a rather misdirected use of fund to require airliners to carry anti-MADPADS defenses. What if the ComAir flight was required to have a system that allowed either the flight crew or tower operator to monitor their position at the airport? They would have easily seen that the hadn't lined up on an active runway. These s
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:13PM (#17665606) Journal
    How can I get one for my cubicle? A few mods, and it could be my APHBM. If you can't figure out what the acronym is, you probably are a PHB.
  • by giafly (926567) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:14PM (#17665622)
    designed to defend against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles during takeoffs and landings.
    Wouldn't it be better and cheaper to base this on the ground at the small proportion of airports used by large passenger aircraft, not on the aircraft themselves? That way size and weight wouldn't matter, it would be in a less hostile environment, and maintenance would be easer?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      Wouldn't it be better and cheaper to base this on the ground at the small proportion of airports used by large passenger aircraft, not on the aircraft themselves?

      A ground-based system wouldn't be able to blind a missile's seeker head with a laser, since the seeker is pointed *up*. They'd need to have surface-to-air missile sites with faster missiles designed to shoot down missiles before they hit the target. Sort of like the Nike system of the 50s through 70s, except that Nike missiles were only effecti

  • by SQLz (564901)
    "Ooowww my eye!!"
  • Fear (Score:2, Insightful)

    I would say a rash measure for international flights, but domestic as well? Did we develop a problem with shoulder fired missles in the US recently? At billions of dollars, we are simply proving that terrorists are right. We really do just cower before them. They knock down a couple buildings and we'll change our entire culture and bankrupt our country in fear.
  • by David_Shultz (750615) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:21PM (#17665738)
    if you were close enough to hit an airplane with a shoulder fired rocket, couldn't you instead use explosives to damage the runway enough to cause a crash? The aftermath of a failed landing or even a failed takeoff is probably enough to serve the terrorists purpose. Anyone remember the failed takeoff of the Air France plane at Pearson international? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_358 [wikipedia.org]
    Not to mention the fact that I can't find a single instance of a commercial aircraft being hit by a shoulder fired rocket.

    This is a stupid waste of money. Of course, it will earn some weapons manufacturers some cash, and it will make some people feel safer -at least until they realize that the next commercial hijackers now control a high-powered laser, but hey, who am I to mock attempts at the "war on terror"? Who'd have thought that waging a war against an abstract noun could have been so tricky?

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:22PM (#17665754)

    I say we let the MythBusters team test this one out, before the congress votes on it.

    Adam: On this episode of MythBusters, we test if terrorists can use the signal from a missile-jamming laser system to actually track the plane more accurately than would otherwise be possible.

    Jamie: Yes, this is one of those stories we've been getting a lot of email about, and we've gotten special support from the folks at Northrop Grumman. I'm really looking forward to trying this one out.

    [20 minutes of footage of tinkering with rocket guidance systems and guest rocket scientists advice, with several shots of rockets missing a watermelon with a simple modulated laser on it, and at last some splattered fruit.]

    Adam: This is so cool - I think we're ready for the real test.

    Jamie: Yeah, I'm really happy with how this came out. I'm surprised how easy it was to change the laser guidance on these missiles to track towards our laser masking system. We'll just have to see how the real system pans out.

    Announcer: Coming up next: Will the airplane defense work against the modified missile? [Video of a missile heading towards an airplane] See what happens, after this break!...

    Hey - at least it would be better standards than the folks who currently test our voting equipment, and likely many of our governmentally-mandated military expenditures.

    Ryan Fenton
  • Thank god (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sneftel (15416) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:23PM (#17665800)
    Thank god that FedEx is finally protected against those UPS militia death-squads.
  • by dfenstrate (202098) * <dfenstrate&gmail,com> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:27PM (#17665890)
    Barbara Boxer is a Senator from California.

    Northrup Grumman makes this system, and it's a potential multi-billion dollar contract.

    Northrup Grumman is headquartered in Los Angelas, CA.

    I just wanted to point that out. Every other highly modded comment is pointing out how there are better ideas than this.
  • by airship (242862) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:30PM (#17665962) Homepage
    Can I get one installed on my Chevy Malibu to protect it from aggressive SUVs?

    Frankly, that would be a better use of the money.
  • by Neil Watson (60859) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:31PM (#17665966) Homepage
    Would more lives be saved inventing and installing an in-cabin fire suppression system instead of an anti-missile system?
  • by cliffski (65094) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:33PM (#17665990) Homepage
    If for planes, why not trains? If I was a terrorist, I'd skip airports entirely, far too many cameras and police. I'd target a high speed intercity train. If I time it right, I should be able to blast a 125mph train into pieces on a high speed track, in time to cause major derailments from other trains. Given that during commuter times, there could easily be 200-300 people on each train, I'd easily rack up the same body count as I would by hitting an airliner (assuming the airliner didn't crash into a tower block).
    And I can hit the train from pretty much anywhere along it's route.

    Trying to make us all immune to terrorist attacks is just impractical. We are treating the symptom, not the disease.
  • Shit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bucky0 (229117) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:40PM (#17666122)
    Why are we such pussies? Look around, in the US, something like:

    40,000 people die/year in car accidents
    20,000 murders/year

    And we get all worked up because some people managed to hijack 4 airplanes and killed 3,000 people? It really sucks, and I understand the pain that the people left behind had to face (as well as the people who died that day). But because of that one attack, we've completely gone bonkers and blown an entirely disproportionate amount of money on making sure it doesn't happen again compared to larger social ills.

    Ugh, it just burns me.
  • by SnowDog74 (745848) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:14PM (#17666764)

    The cold war was an ever-escalating chain of threats, the actual execution of which was always extremely improbable (as both sides knew the end result)... For decades the threat of nuclear war was carted out as an excuse for giving away billions upon billions to defense contractors.

    Shortly after the cold war ended, various skirmishes and, then, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom became the new dog-and-pony by which Congress to appease their constituencies and lobbyists in states where defense contractors represented significant employment. But now it's blossoming into another Vietnam and is beginning to blow up in Congress' face.

    So, what's the answer? Give the defense contractors a new mission: Counterterrorism! Since the supply of irrational fear is virtually limitless, the demand for solutions to calm these irrational fears is equally unbounded. Naturally, this could go on for decades, just like the cold war...

    How can they convince the people to buy into it? Remember Lisa Simpson and the tiger-repellent rock? You don't see any terrorists around do you? That's the beauty of irrational fears... you don't need to use a rational argument to soothe them.

    This is not to say that counterterrorism is bunk... No, it's necessary. But there's a pragmatic approach to identifying real threats and determining the cost of real solutions to them, and then there's the Chicken Little approach. The sky is falling. Watch out for terrorists in Fargo, North Dakota. Attack them before they attack us.

    The big problem with this mania that has been exploited by the Bush administration and Republicans in particular is this: While they are quick to point out that no terrorist attacks have occurred on Bush's watch since September 11, 2001... I am equally quick to point out that the worst terrorist attack in US history did, in fact, occur on Bush's watch.
  • by ahg (134088) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @03:05PM (#17667842)
    Here's a CNN article [cnn.com]from 2004 about how the Israeli airline, El/Al, is equipping all its planes with a ground-air missle defense system using flares. They have already installed it... the technology has been around for years.

    Why did't we just borrow it? Why did they spend $90 million already and lose years of opportunity to secure our planes to develop a new system?

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