Should airplanes have missile defense systems?

Fighter jets do it so why can't commercial airlines

NEW YORK (CNN) – Should passenger planes be equipped with anti-missile technology? Is it even a realistic thing to consider?

Now renewed support for finding a way to protect commercial flights with missile defense technology similar to that on us military planes.

There are options, but almost all are designed to stop shoulder fired missiles like the one that took down this DHL flight over Baghdad in 2003, which the crew survived.

One option: Flares or what’s called chaff: Tiny pieces of aluminum stuffed into a canister that create a sort of visual smoke screen that tricks the missiles radar temporarily.

“The chaff will surround an area behind the wing or the aircraft as they aircraft flies away diverting the missile.  The other simple design used to be called flare. And just like a road flare produces some heat source and you shoot that off somewhere away from the aircraft,” said retired commercial pilot Ross Aimer.

There are also new high tech options.  This one from defense contractor Northrop Grumman called the guardian, “When a missile is fired the systems sensors automatically detect it and track it. Directing an eye safe laser beam into the missiles seeker. The system jams the missile and drives it away from the aircraft.”

Systems like this are already in use on planes flown by Israel’s El Al Airline.

“In Israel today, one of their homegrown defense systems called Elbit Systems outfitted their fleet with counter measures to deal with the more traditional type shoulder launcher missiles,” said aviation adviser Brian Foley said.

But aviation experts say when it comes to the more advanced surface to air missiles like the one U.S. intelligence believes shot down MH flight 17 the technology just isn’t there yet.

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk is calling for action sending this letter to the FAA asking them, “To produce a study to detail the feasibility, cost and timeframe to install countermeasures that could defend against surface to air missiles on U.S. Civilian airliners conducting long-range international routes.”

After 9/11 he added, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security spent 276 million dollars studying a way commercial airliners could be protected against shoulder fired missiles.

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