U.S. FAA reviews FedEx proposal to install A321 laser-based missile-defense system

Signage is seen at a FedEx location in Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 3, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Reuters) – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday it was offering terms that would allow FedEx to install laser-based missile defense on Airbus (AIR.PA) A321-200 planes .

Delivery company FedEx Corp (FDX.N) in October 2019 applied for permission to use a feature that emits infrared laser energy out of the plane as a countermeasure against missile-seeking missiles. heat, the FAA revealed in a document.

A FedEx spokeswoman declined to comment immediately on whether it was still pursuing approval of the request. FedEx does not currently operate any Airbus 321 aircraft.

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The FAA said it was still reviewing the proposal and would consider public comments. Airbus did not immediately comment.

The airline industry and several governments have grappled with the threat to airliners posed by shoulder-fired missiles known as man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADs, for decades. Some use infrared systems to target aircraft engines.

“The FedEx Missile Defense System directs infrared laser energy at an incoming missile, intended to disrupt

the missile’s tracking of the aircraft’s heat,” the FAA document states.

The FAA has offered conditions before considering approving the system, including making sure it will prevent inadvertent operation on the ground, including during maintenance.

According to the US State Department, more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADs since the 1970s.

Efforts to combat the threat accelerated after two missiles narrowly missed an Arkia Israel Airlines Boeing 757 on takeoff from Mombasa airport in November 2002.

Cargo planes were also targeted.

In 2003, an Airbus A300 freighter flown by DHL was damaged by MANPADs and forced to make an emergency landing in Baghdad.

In 2007 and 2008, FedEx participated in a US government trial of anti-missile technology for civilian aircraft by installing Northrop Grumman’s Guardian Countermeasures System (NOC.N) on select commercial cargo flights while BAE Systems ( BAES.L) said it installed its JetEye system on an American Airlines aircraft.

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Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Tim Hepher in Paris Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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