Anti-missile lasers on civil aircraft have moved a step closer to reality with the first flight of Jeteye, the BAE Systems counter MANPADS (man-portable air defence systems) equipment.
Jeteye, an aircraft infrared missile protection system, made its first flight on an American Airlines Boeing 767 on the eve of Dubai 2005.
BAE Systems says Jeteye works against single or multiple incoming missiles but decline to specify how many missiles it can handle.
The first flight, under the US Department of Homeland Security’s Counter-MANPADS programme, took place from Fort Worth Alliance airport. The current phase of the programme is due to run until the end of 2005.
Burt Keirstead, BAE Systems counter-MANPADS programme director, says the flight was a successful culmination of a long period of laboratory and field testing.
“We have done laboratory testing and simulated missile firing but the flight testing is much more representative of the actual environment,” he says.
He adds that his team has succeeded in meeting the programme’s criterion of creating a system that will cost less than $1 million and support costs “that are a fraction of a cent in terms of seat mile costs”.
The Jeteye system is based on the Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM) system which was developed to protect military aircraft.
Says Keirstead: “As a result of our partnership with the world’s largest airline, we understand the challenges that the airlines face. Our installation approach minimises the impact on airline operations.”
He adds that Jeteye is an autonomous system which requires little input from the flightcrew and thus very little training.
Having achieved the milestone, the BAE Systems team could be forgiven for being dismayed by the latest development in the Homeland Security Department’s initiative. Recently, the US Congress directed the Bush administration to invest in alternatives to laser jammers to protect commercial airliners.

Source: Flight Daily News