FedEx asks FAA permission to add anti-missile system to some cargo planes

In a Friday filing, the FAA noted that FedEx had requested permission to add the missile defense system. “The FedEx missile defense system directs infrared laser energy toward an incoming missile, in an attempt to stop the missile from tracking the aircraft’s heat,” the agency said, according to a report released by the Federal Aviation Administration Friday.
There is cause for concern. In 2003, a surface-to-air missile hit the left wing of an Airbus A330 operating for DHL just after taking off from Baghdad. The crew returned to the airport safely.

“In recent years, in several incidents abroad, civil aircraft have come under fire by man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS),” says the FAA document. “This has led to several companies designing and adapting systems such as the laser-based missile defense system for installation on civilian aircraft, to protect those aircraft from thermal missiles.”

Aviation regulators will now hear 45 days of public comment before approving an “out-of-plane infrared laser energy system as a countermeasure against heat-seeking missiles” on the Airbus A321-200.

The FAA document says FedEx began the government approval process for modified A321-200s back in 2019, although the company does not yet own such aircraft. FedEx did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that any approval must include “means to prevent unintended activation of the system on the ground, including during aircraft maintenance and ground handling, since laser accidents “can result in eye and skin damage.”


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