FAA refuses to approve civilian aircraft anti-missile systems

It is not clear how El Al planes equipped with Flight Guard can use US airports.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) refuses to approve flare-based anti-missile systems for civilian airplanes, due to the safety risks, defense industry sources confirmed to "Globes". Israel Civil Aviation Administration (ICAA) director Yitzhak Raz is discussing the matter with the FAA in an effort to change the decision.

Minister of Transport Avigdor Lieberman announced that he would try to persuade Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta to use the Flight Guard anti- surface-to-air missile system, built by Israel Aircraft Industries and Israel Military Industries.

IAI and Raytheon (NYSE:RTN) market Flight Guard in the US. Flight Guard lost an FAA tender 18 months ago. In view of the failure in the tender, it is not clear how El Al (TASE:ELAL) planes equipped with Flight Guard will be able to use US airports.

Sources in the Flight Guard program told "Globes" that the flares used in the system are calibrated not to discharge below safe altitude, in order to prevent fires or injury to people on the ground. The calibration was developed so the companies could obtain FAA approval of the system and to sell it overseas.

Flight Guard systems to be installed on Israeli planes will create a problem upon landing in the US. A resolution to the problem is uncertain at the moment, although flare-based defense systems can be turned off, allowing the planes to land in the US.

Rafael (Israel Armament Development Company), which is developing its own electro-optical anti-missile defense system for civilian aircraft, is greatly encouraged by Flight Guard's troubles with the FAA. Rafael's system does not fire flares to divert incoming missiles. Rafael executives say that, apparently, Israeli airlines will wait for its systems to be developed. The systems, they say, can be marketed successfully in the US.

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on April 22, 2004

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