Homeland Security: Protecting Airliners from Terrorist Missiles

Recent events have focused attention on the threat that terrorists with shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), referred to as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), pose to commercial airliners. Most believe that no single solution exists to effectively mitigate this threat. Instead, a menu of options may be considered, including installing infrared (IR) countermeasures on aircraft; modifying flight operations and air traffic control procedures; improving airport and regional security; and strengthening missile non-proliferation efforts. Equipping aircraft with missile countermeasure systems can protect the aircraft even when operating in areas where ground based security measures are unavailable or infeasible to implement. However, this option has a relatively high cost, between $1 million and $3 million per aircraft, and the time needed for implementation does not allow for immediate response to the existing terrorist threat. Procedural improvements such as special flight crew training, altering air traffic procedures to minimize exposure to the threat, and improved security near airports may be less costly than countermeasures and could more immediately help deter domestic terrorist attacks. Legislation introduced in the 108th Congress calls for the installation of missile defense systems in all turbojet aircraft used in schedule air carrier service. Homeland Security appropriations designated $60 million in FY2004 and $61 million in FY2005 to fund a program to develop and test prototype missile countermeasure systems for commercial aircraft based on existing military technology. It is anticipated that at the conclusion of this program, January 2006, the DHS will be able to provide an analysis of the progress so far.

  • Corporate Authors:

    Congressional Research Service

    Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, SE
    Resources, Science and Industry Division
    Washington, DC  United States  20540-7500
  • Authors:
    • Bolkcom, C
    • Feickert, A
    • Elias, B
  • Publication Date: 2004-10-22


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Pagination: 27p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01002262
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 2 2005 9:40AM