FedEx Has Asked For Permission To Install Anti-Missile Systems On Its Cargo Planes

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FedEx plans to operate cargo planes outfitted with lasers that deflect incoming heat-seeking missiles, according to federal records. On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration stated in a filing Friday that FedEx had requested authorization to add the missile-defense system. FAA said that  the “FedEx missile-defense system directs infrared laser energy toward an incoming missile to interrupt the missile’s tracking of the aircraft’s heat.”

However, there is reason to panic. A surface-to-air missile crashed through the left wing of a DHL Airbus A330 shortly after takeoff from Baghdad in 2003. The crew was unharmed and returned to the airport.

“In recent years, in several incidents abroad, civilian aircraft were fired upon by man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS),” the FAA document says. “This has led several companies to design and adapt systems like a laser-based missile-defense system for installation on civilian aircraft, to protect those aircraft against heat-seeking missiles.”

Before allowing “a system that emits infrared laser energy outside the aircraft as a countermeasure against heat-seeking missiles” on Airbus A321-200 aircraft, aviation officials will now receive public feedback for 45 days.

FedEx began the government certification process for altering A321-200s in 2019, even though the organization does not yet own such aircraft. 

Considering laser mishaps “can result in eye and skin damage,” the FAA requires that any approval contain “means that prevent the inadvertent activation of the system on the ground, including during aircraft maintenance and ground handling.”

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