Aircraft Anti-Missile Systems Need More Work, DHS Says

08.03.06 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

(Updated below)

The potential threat to commercial aircraft from hostile use of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (Man Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS) still does not have a satisfactory technological solution, the Department of Homeland Security said in a new report to Congress.

“It is feasible to transition selected military [defense] technology to the commercial aviation environment, but it is challenging from a logistics, cost, export control, and, to some extent, from a liability perspective,” the DHS report said.

“Additional design, development, test, and actual operation [of counter-MANPADS technology] in the commercial environment is needed to improve reliability, reduce drag and weight, incorporate technology protection, [and] enhance producibility….”

See “Department of Homeland Security Counter-MANPADS Program Summary, Report to Congress Detailing Phases I and II Findings of the Counter-MANPADS Program,” DHS Science and Technology Directorate, July 31, 2006.

[Update 08/11/06: At the request of the Department of Homeland Security, Secrecy News has taken this report off-line.]

The new DHS assessment, which has not previously been made available to the public, was first reported by the Associated Press.

See “Airline Anti-Missile System Years Away” by Leslie Miller, Associated Press, July 31.

Extensive background on MANPADS proliferation prepared by Matthew Schroeder of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project is available here.

“Congress needs to keep in mind that onboard anti-missile systems are not a panacea; they only protect planes from a small sub-category of threats, and provide no protection for Americans flying on foreign airliners that aren’t equipped with the systems,” Mr. Schroeder said. “If Congress goes this route, they need to redouble non- and counter-proliferation efforts.”