A Raytheon and Rafael team is to propose to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a $10m, live-fire test of a scaled-down version of a ground-based defensive system to protect airliners from shoulder-fired missiles.
The industry team has almost completed an assessment for DHS of two of the three principal elements of the Vigilant Eagle system at an undisclosed US airport, says Michael Booen, Raytheon's vice-president for advanced missile defence.
The two elements currently being assessed are the missile warning system and the command and control system, the latter supplied by Norway's Konigsberg defence 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," says Booen.
The HPM beam is intended to scramble the missile's guidance system. The microwave operates within the same bandwith range as commercial mobile phones, posing no risk to the airliner's avionics, he adds.