El Al and other carriers in line for laser-based anti-missile protection

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Israeli flag-carrier El Al is to be among the beneficiaries of an agreement between the Israeli Government and Elbit Systems to supply laser-based anti-missile equipment for commercial aircraft.

Under a $76 million agreement with the Israeli ministry of transport, Elbit will provide its Commercial Multi-Spectral Infra-Red Countermeasure (C-MUSIC) system, a variant of its MUSIC anti-missile equipment for the military arena.

MUSIC comprises a thermal camera which acquires and tracks a missile threat, combined with a laser designed to disrupt an incoming projectile's guidance system. The system is mounted on a high-speed turret to track the missile accurately.

"This is a significant breakthrough in this field and we believe that many customers worldwide will decide to install these systems aboard their commercial aircraft fleets," says Elbit Systems chief Joseph Ackerman.

Elbit's Electro-optics division is to supply the equipment to the Israeli ministry, and the company says it will be installed "aboard a variety of commercial aircraft owned by Israeli commercial airlines".

el al 777 anti-missile system

While Elbit has not identified any of the carriers likely to receive the equipment, a source familiar with the agreement says "it can be assumed" that all three major Israeli airlines - El Al, Israir and Arkia - are in line to be fitted.

El Al is already reported to have fitted a number of aircraft with the 'Flight Guard' flare-based system developed by Israel Aerospace Industries' Elta division.

Risks of missile attacks on Israeli aircraft became apparent seven years ago when a weapon was fired at an Arkia Boeing 757 on departure from Mombasa in Kenya in November 2002.