Teams led by BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman and United Airlines will learn within weeks which of the three is to receive US government contracts to begin flight testing systems developed to protect airliners from missile attacks.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was scheduled to announce the second phase in its Counter Manpads (man-portable air defence systems) programme by mid-August, with two teams likely to receive contracts to flight-test their systems. The DHS says the selection will be made before the end of this month, but says it does not have an exact date.
Earlier this year, the DHS allotted each team $2 million to develop a plan to adapt military missile detection and countermeasures technology for commercial aircraft under phase one of the Counter Manpads programme.
Phase two, an 18-month programme, requires the chosen team or teams to finalise designs, flight-test the systems, acquire US Federal Aviation Administration certification, analyse costs and provide training requirements. The DHS is targeting a maximum per-flight cost of $500 for airlines to use the Counter Manpads device.
The BAE-led team, comprising Delta Air Lines and Honeywell, and the Northrop Grumman-led team, including FedEx Express and Northwest Airlines, are both offering laser-based directional infrared countermeasures systems derived from equipment already in production for the US military.
United leads a consortium that proposes using a decoy-based system, whereby flares would be used to decoy infrared-guided missiles.
MARY KIRBY / WASHINGTON DC
Source: Flight International