by R. Mitchell

Cargo transportation giant Federal Express is asking government regulators to allow it to install an anti-missile system on its planes. The system would consist of one or more infrared lasers, detection sensors and tracking capabilities.

The system “directs infrared laser energy toward an incoming missile, in an effort to interrupt the missile’s tracking of the aircraft’s heat,” FedEx said in a public notice to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

FedEx originally applied for the certificate to install the defense system in October of 2019 but will be added to the Federal Register on January 18, 2022, after which interested parties can make public comment on the request.

The package carrier said in the notice that “In recent years, in several incidents abroad, civilian aircraft were fired upon by man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS),” giving a reason for the request. A passenger airliner, flight MH17, was shot down by a Russian MANPAD and Iran shot down Ukraine flight 752 shortly after it left Tehran.

Federal Express would not be the first commercial aircraft to have a missile defense system on board. Israel’s El Al began installing systems in 2004 and U.S. carriers began using systems in 2008.

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