On Thursday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced a new bill that would require the Pentagon to establish a pilot program “to determine the feasibility and desirability” of equipping turbojet planes in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) with anti-missile systems. The CRAF is a Defense Department program that draws on civilian passenger and cargo aircraft to supplement the military’s existing airlift capacity during emergencies. As of November 2006, there were 1,379 aircraft enrolled in the CRAF.
The program established by the ‘Civil Reserve Air Fleet Missile Defense Pilot Program Act of 2007’ (HR 2274) would require the installation of DoD-certified anti-missile systems on at least 20 CRAF planes for a two-year period. The bill authorizes $75,000,000 to cover costs associated with the program, and is co-sponsored by Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL).
If approved by Congress, the CRAF Missile Defense Pilot Program would join a growing list of initiatives aimed at assessing, developing, and/or deploying anti-missile systems on civilian aircraft and US airports. The first was established by the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 and is now in its third and final phase. It is adapting military laser jammers for use on commercial aircraft. The Emerging Counter-MANPADS Technologies assessment, which was launched in October 2006, is evaluating alternatives to plane-mounted laser jammers, including flare systems and airport-based technologies that zap missiles with microwaves or high-energy lasers. The third initiative, dubbed Project CHLOE after a character on the hit TV show “24,” is exploring the possibility of using high altitude UAVs as platforms for missile warning and countermeasure systems.
Rep. Israel is a leading advocate of counter-manpads programs and was one of the first lawmakers to call for the use of anti-missile systems on commercial airliners. In 2003 and again in 2005, he introduced legislation ( the Commercial Airline Missile Defense Act) that required the installation of anti-missile systems on turbojet aircraft operated by US air carriers. A year later, he introduced a more comprehensive counter-MANPADS bill that called for mutlitateral efforts to limit the transfer of MANPADS and to destroy surplus missile stocks, the establishment of a process for conducting FAA airworthiness certification of anti-missile systems, and reports on counter-MANPADS programs and airport vulnerability assessments. A version of the bill was later passed as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
Rep. Israel’s legislation coincides with Congressional consideration of a proposed funding increase for a critically important State Department program that secures and destroys surplus, poorly secured, and illicit MANPADS in other countries. The program has destroyed over 21,000 missiles, secured commitments to destroy an additional 8,000 MANPADS, and has improved stockpile security in arsenals holding thousands more missiles. The FY08 funding request includes $36 million “to support initiatives to counter the proliferation of MANPADS, including stockpile security and destruction.” The House and Senate subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs are currently reviewing the budget request, and bills from both sub-committees are expected shortly.
For more information:
Civil Reserve Air Fleet, US Air Force Fact Sheet, January 2007
Rep. Israel’s “Shoulder-Fired Missiles” page
“Bush Gets it Right on Small Arms Threat Reduction,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 5 February 2007.
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