November 24, 2004

Israelis Get Serious About Aviation Security

The BBC reports that Israel has finalized a deal to fit its commercial aircraft with antimissile systems to defend against terrorist attack. El Al will fit the invisible-flare system initially on its high-risk flights -- but not to the US or Europe:

The Flight Guard system has been developed by Israel's largest defence firm, Israel Military Industries, and Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aircraft Industries.

It is expected to be installed on six El Al jets if initial tests prove successful, and eventually on the rest of the airline's 30-strong fleet, Haaretz reported.

While one supposes that terrorists would target flights to Europe and the US over those to Asia and Africa, none of the Western nations to which El Al flies will approve the new system. The US and Europe reportedly want to wait for infra-red jamming systems, rather than the invisible-flare system which Israel will purchase at a cost of over $1 million a plane. Unfortunately, those systems are still being developed and will not be ready until at least next year.

Every analysis done on commerical-aviation security has pointed out the gaping risk of surface-to-air missile attacks, against which our current fleet has no countermeasures. Commercial aviation moves too slowly and handles too heavily to outfly such an attack. It's bad enough that three years after 9/11, we have yet to deploy any realistic defenses against this strategy, but denying El Al landing rights for their planes appears inexcusable. Why are we punishing El Al and their customers -- many who are US citizens -- for providing the best security?


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