Emergency funds given to EADS-led team to research technology to protect airliners

European lawmakers have used a little-known emergency measures procedure to force through funding for research into protecting airliners against man-portable missiles.

The European Commission last week published a list of 13 research projects to combat terrorism to be funded from a €15 million ($18.2 million) “preparatory action” fund separate from the lengthy framework programme (FP) selection process.

Security research projects are to be included in the seventh FP, but pressure was put on the EC to start research next year into the protection of commercial aircraft against man-portable air defence systems (Manpads), due to a perceived imminent threat, according to a source within the enterprise and industry directorate general, the EC body steering the research.

“The preparatory action, or pilot study, is a way to allocate central European Union funds to launch new actions or standalone projects outside the scope of the FP,” the source says.

The so-called Palma project to define the technological solutions required to defend aircraft against attack from Manpads will be allocated up to 75% of its projected €2 million cost from EU central funds, and follows US Department for Homeland Security funding for two competing anti-missile protection suites for airliners developed by BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman.

EADS Corporate Research is to head the European team, leading a consortium of 12 industrial and research partners in four countries. The contract for the Palma project is due to be signed in November, with work to start early next year, the EC source says.

The EC says the preparatory action on the anti-terrorist measures was necessary to “bridge the gap between civil research, as supported by EC FPs, and national and intergovernmental security research initiatives”.

Palma was rejected as a research programme last year, but pressure was placed on the European panel of independent experts who evaluated the 156 proposals in early June and selected eight.

Other proposals selected include a Dassault-led study into border patrol unmanned air vehicles; a Diehl BGT Defence-led system to detect anomalies at airports; sensors to detect threats for rail passengers; border surveillance; and securing computer networks, crisis command and control systems.


Source: Flight International