Despite the great and immediate threat, no Israeli passenger aircraft is equipped with countermeasures against shoulder launched missiles. In recent days there has been another attempt to implement government decisions and to change this absurd situation.
In November 2002, terrorists tried to bring down the Arkia plane that took off from Mombasa’s airport in Kenya. It missed, but the Israeli prime minister at that time, Ariel Sharon, decided not to rely on luck and to take immediate action. The cabinet passed a resolution to equip 6-8 passenger aircraft with countermeasures.
The available system at that time was the Flight Guard developed by Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The government decided, IAI stepped up the testing of the system and the process looked very serious. But now, nine years later, only the passive unit of the system has been installed on one of the passenger aircraft. Passive without the active unit is useless. Dead weight on the aircraft for nothing.
It is not a surprising fact that government’s decisions are not implemented but in this case it is very worrying, as experts say again and again that many terror organizations have acquired shoulder launched missiles.
The Flight Guard system is based on a special sensor that detects the incoming missiles and on flares that are being released and divert the heat seeking missile.
At first, airports in some “sensitive” countries defined as ones with potential threats were very reluctant to allow Israeli airliners to land in their airports with the system .But efforts have been made and these were assisted by the development of “dark ” flares that will not cause hysteria in the airport’s area, in case of a false alarm that will release them over the runways.
As time passed, Elbit Systems has moved forward with the development of a new, more advanced countermeasures, based on a laser beam that will divert the missile.
But that did not change the fact that the subsystems of the Flight Guard are being stored in one of IAI’s facilities, waiting for the government to prove that it can implement its own decisions. Two other governments since that of Ariel Sharon have discussed the issue but the outcome is still zero.
“Fifty thousand shoulder launched missile are out there in very deadly hands. This situation is absurd and unacceptable,” one Israeli expert says.
Israel has at least thought about a solution. Other countries ignore the threat that is not directed only against Israel. Pretending that there is no threat will not protect airliners from terror attacks with shoulder launched missiles.