Raytheon pitches follow-on test for airport anti-missile system

Washington DC
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A Raytheon and Rafael team will propose to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a roughly $10 million, live-fire test to demonstrate a scaled-down version of a ground-based defensive system at airports to protect airlines from shoulder-fired missiles.

The industry team has almost completed an assessment for DHS of two of the three principle elements of the Vigilant Eagle system at an undisclosed US airport, says Michael Booen, Raytheon’s VP for advanced missile defense.

Those two elements currently being assessed are the missile warning system and the command and control system, of which the latter is supplied by Norway’s Konigsberg defense contractor. 

Raytheon is proposing a follow-up test next year to demonstrate how those two systems can cue the third element – a high-powered microwave (HPM) – to knock off course a shoulder-fired missile fired at an airliner.

The Vigilant Eagle system is marketed as an alternative to anti-missile systems installed on aircraft, such as the Northrop Grumman Guardian and the BAE Systems JetEye.

“I really don’t think the airlines are going to want to add more stuff [to the airliner’s fuselage] that’s going to add weight,” Booen says.

The HPM beam is aimed at scrambling the missile’s guidance system. The HPM operates within the same bandwith range as commercial mobile phones, posing to risk to the airliner’s avionics, Booen says.