FedEx Wants to Outfit Cargo Planes with Missile Defense Systems

by Matthew Memrick
fedex-wants-to-outfit-cargo-planes-with-missile-defense-systems
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

FedEx is trying to increase your package’s security with plans to put missile defense systems on its cargo planes.

The freight company may need this tool in their arsenal in case of a random heat-seeking missile.

Maybe the shipping company got the idea after years of people on the ground using laser pens to distract pilots. But it seems like a novel approach in flying over eastern European countries.

FedEx Asks Government For Lasers

CNN reported that the Memphis, Tenn.-based company asked the Federal Aviation Administration to add these defense systems to their planes.

The agency said that the “system directs infrared laser energy toward an incoming missile, to interrupt the missile’s tracking of the aircraft’s heat,” according to a Friday filing by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Nineteen years ago, a surface-to-air missile hit the left wing of a FedEx competitor DHL plane in Iraq. The crew returned to the Baghdad airport unharmed. 

In another case, two missiles almost hit an Israeli Airlines Boeing 757 on takeoff from Mombasa, Kenya in 2002.

Additionally, North Korea has recently tested numerous missiles with launches into the Pacific Ocean. Reuters reported that a U.S. State Department tally included more than 40 civilian airplanes attacked by MANPADs or Man-Portable Air Defense Systems. That tally started in the 1970s. 

The FAA said that “several companies” are designing and want to adopt “a laser-based missile-defense system for installation on civilian aircraft, to protect those aircraft against heat-seeking missiles.”

Obviously, the public has 45 days to comment on a system for the Airbus A321-200 aircraft plan.

According to the FAA, the Airbus A321-200 is a twin-engine model with a maximum takeoff weight of 89,000 pounds.

FAA: Laser Defense Talk Started in 2019

FedEx started its federal approval process for modifying that particular plane back in 2019.

Reuters reported back in 2007 and 2008 that the shipping company took part in a U.S. government test. FedEx used a Northrup Grumman countermeasures system for some commercial cargo flights in the testing. American Airlines used a BAE Systems-created JetEye system during the same time. 

CNN reports that the company does not have this specific plane in its fleet yet. FedEx and Airbus did not respond to the media outlet over the laser defense system.

Fox News and Reuters reported that the FAA would allow FedEx to apply for the same defense system for other fleet airplanes.

According to the FAA, any FedEx approval must include a guarantee that the system could not be inadvertently “activated” during airplane maintenance and ground handling. The agency said this was because any laser accidents could injure eyes and skin. 

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