Mid-air missile defence

The 227 kg Guardian pod being installed on an MD-10 cargo jet. The system can track and redirect missiles in 2 to 5 seconds. Image credit: Brian Brasher
Date:30 April 2007 Tags:

Northrop Grumman’s anti-missile system for commercial jets finally takes aim.

In 2002, an Israeli jetliner taking off from Kenya narrowly avoided being hit by two shoulder-launched SA-7 missiles. Over the span of a few seconds, a once-remote threat became very real. In January this year, Northrop Grumman began flying its Guardian anti-missile system for the first time on commercial jets.

Mounted on the jet’s fuselage, the system locks on to an incoming missile and fires an infrared laser at it. This creates a false heat signature that’s stronger than that of the plane’s engines, and which appears to turn. After dragging the missile off-course like a tractor beam, the laser stops firing. With no way to reacquire the target, the missile eventually detonates in midair or on the ground.

Nine Guardian-equipped FedEx MD-10 cargo jets will make their standard rounds until March next year, testing the durability of the system – and, we hope, nothing else.
– Erik Sofge


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