Photo Credit: Aaron Davis / Wikimedia
FedEx Boeing 757-200 cargo aircraft on the FedEx apron at Toronto Pearson International Airport

The mammoth FedEx international delivery company has asked the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for authorization to install a laser-based missile defense system on its Airbus A321-200 aircraft.

The FAA application was submitted in October 2019, according to Reuters.

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“The FedEx missile-defense system directs infrared laser energy toward an incoming missile, in an effort to interrupt the missile’s tracking of the aircraft’s heat,” the FAA document said.

“The applicable airworthiness regulations do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for this design feature. These proposed special conditions contain the additional safety standards that the Administrator considers necessary to establish a level of safety equivalent to that established by the existing airworthiness standards.”

Before approving such a system, however, the FAA proposed conditions that included ensuring it will prevent the inadvertent operation while on the ground, including during maintenance.

However, it is not clear that the entire application is even relevant: FedEx at present does not operate Airbus 321 aircraft, so it’s not clear whether the company is still pursuing its application.

The entire airline industry as well as several governments have been wrestling for decades with how to contend with the threat to aircraft posed by shoulder-fired missiles (MANPADs, or Man-Portable Air Defense Systems).

More than 40 civil airplanes have been hit by MANPADs since the 1970s, according to the US State Department, including an Arkia Israeli Airlines Boeing 757 passenger jet that was nearly hit by two missiles aimed at the aircraft in November 2002 as it took off from Mombasa Airport.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.