Anti-missile technology & American Airlines Flight 612 Revisited

6 January 2008: The Department of Homeland Security announced last week that passenger jets will be outfitted with anti-missile technology designed to thwart terrorists armed with shoulder fired missiles. According to the Department of Homeland Security, three American Airlines Boeing 767-200s, flying daily round-trip routes between New York and California will receive laser jamming capabilities this spring in a test of the anti-missile system.

From the FAA to the DHS and beyond, the American flying public has been told that the threat against our aircraft by shoulder-fired missiles, or MANPADS, is “very low.” We have been told that “there has not been an attempt to take down a jet on U.S. soil with a shoulder-fired missile.” On the other hand, we have been warned about potential attacks against our aircraft by such devices due to their portable and lightweight design, and the relative ease of their availability on the black market. In fact, one component of a recent terrorism investigation and conviction involved the leaders of a mosque in Albany, NY and the attempted acquisition of a shoulder-fired missile.

The Northeast Intelligence Network has been consistently warning about ongoing threats to our airliners, from the insufficiently explained incidents involving lasers “painting” aircraft, surveillance activities at our airports, to unexplained incidents involving airliners in flight. One such incident took place on November 26, 2005, involving American Airlines Flight 612 - an incident that was extensively reported by this agency and continues to be under investigation.

In the wake of last week’s announcement, it would be of interest to revisit the incident involving American Airlines Flight 612.