- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Technology to make airplanes safe from missile attacks is available but unlikely to make its way into passenger craft anytime soon.
"Putting countermeasures onto civilian aircraft is certainly technically feasible but it is not a solution that could occur quickly," said Todd Curtis, founder of the Airsafe Journal, in an article published yesterday.
Senate intelligence committee leaders Sunday called on the newly created Transportation Security Agency to "immediately" respond to the potential for surface-to-air missile attacks against U.S. commercial aircraft.
The remarks followed a failed shoulder-launched missile attack against an Israeli passenger aircraft in Kenya.
Sen. Bob Graham, of Florida, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, wants the TSA to focus primarily on perimeter security at airports.
"There is a general concern about the working relationship between federal agencies and state and local agencies that manage large facilities, like airports and seaports, and how well they coordinate on providing security across the board," Paul Anderson, Mr. Graham's communications director, said yesterday.
Mr. Curtis and other aviation experts concurred that on-the-ground security could be implemented effectively and quickly, though at some cost.
Mr. Graham was co-sponsor of a port-security bill approved by Congress that mandates coordinated law enforcement at seaports. Mr. Anderson said that the new transportation agency has the legislative authority to act and should take the lead on the matter.
Information and intelligence sharing ought to be a top priority, he said.
The TSA did not return phone calls seeking comment.
High-tech solutions also are available. Defense firm BAE Systems, for example, manufactures self-protection systems for military and civil aircraft. The company's systems could be applied to commercial aircraft but that would require government approval, said John Measell, a company spokesman.
"Our systems are primarily for the military. For commercial use, we would need approval of the government," he said.
Design and safety issues also would delay any deployment.
"One of the things we are always trying to do is ensure our design takes into account many different scenarios. But designing any [anti-]missile system in a commercial aircraft would involve significant design work and could raise significant issues in its own right," said a spokesman for airline manufacturer Boeing.
The U.S. commercial fleet includes about 4,900 passenger jets, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"It typically takes a year before any major change to the design and operation of commercial aircraft could be certified, tested and installed," Mr. Curtis said.
It is not clear exactly how many missile systems are available around the world or if any are a threat in the United States.
"There are thousands of these surface-to-air missiles around the world," said Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, who appeared with Mr. Graham on "Fox News Sunday."
"You can buy them and you can transport them. A lot of them are not as accurate as others. But sooner or later that's going to be one of the methods for the terrorists to hit," he said.
Simple law enforcement measures around airports, such as increasing police patrols and restricting some activities would be effective, but that may be an unacceptable burden on communities adjacent to airports, Mr. Curtis said.
"We have to rely on citizens who live near the airports to report anything suspicious," Mr. Curtis said. "Unless we have cooperation from the citizenry, there's no way to put enough eyeballs on everything going on."


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