Missile defence system launched in unpredictable market

It’s, without any doubt, an historic event. The question is whether it will have wide or very limited effects.

Thirteen years after terrorists launched SA-7 shoulder-launched missiles at an Israeli 757 in Kenya, missing their target, the first countermeasures system has been installed on an Israeli passenger aircraft.

The process was slow. Technology and bureaucracy took their time. At first a flare-based system was considered, but the idea faded away. Then they turned to lasers and the technology was developed so it could divert incoming missiles.

The work, done in a closed hangar at Ben Gurion airport, was completed recently.

A first Elbit Systems Commercial Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasure (C-MUSIC) system has been installed on an EL AL passenger aircraft.

The system is operated while the aircraft flies on certain routes served by the airline.

The installation on the EL AL 737 followed a series of successful flight tests on board a Boeing 707 aircraft. The system, designed to protect large jet aircraft against shoulder-launched missiles, was proven effective, performing all of the required functions. 

The threat of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) has grown considerably during the last few years. Elbit Systems’s Electro-optics C-MUSIC systems are a family of directed infrared counter measures (DIRCM) solutions for protecting aircraft against heat-seeking ground-to-air missiles. According to the Israeli company these systems integrate advanced fibre laser technology with a high-rate thermal camera and a small, highly dynamic mirror turret to provide effective, reliable and affordable protection to all types of aircraft and under all operational conditions. 

VIP aircraft will be equipped with the system. Mission aircraft will also carry it. But the biggest market is the airlines. 

I can only share the pessimism of industry people who do not see airlines standing in line to buy the system. 

It adds weight, it costs money and needs maintenance. No airline, except the Israeli ones, will go for this system, despite all intelligence reports about an imminent threat.

In the meantime Elbit has developed smaller versions that can be installed on smaller aircraft and helicopters.

The technology is ripe, but the market is, at this stage, very unpredictable.

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