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How Israel’s Airlines Put Anti-Missile Systems On Planes

Some commercial airlines have equipped their planes with anti-missile systems to protect against attacks from the ground. In one of FlightChic’s recent articles on, we look into the history of this development and the technology that backs commercial aircraft defense.

How Israel's Airlines Put Anti-Missile Systems On Planes
Tel Aviv, Israel – February 24, 2019: El Al Israel Airlines Boeing 747-400 airplane at Tel Aviv airport (TLV) in Israel. Boeing is an American aircraft manufacturer headquartered in Chicago. Credit:Boarding1Now

The recent conflict in Israel raises security concerns, disrupting air travel and making flights too high-risk for several airlines to operate. Israeli airlines El Al, Israir, and Arkia added flights to bring home reservists. They continue to operate most of their flights as scheduled. What gives them the confidence to do so? Israel has been at the forefront of integrating anti-missile defense systems into its commercial aircraft fleet.

The Genesis Of Anti-Missile Defense In Commercial Flight

Israel’s decision to integrate anti-missile defenses in commercial aircraft was precipitated by an alarming incident in 2002. En route in Kenya, an Israeli Arkia B757 narrowly evaded a missile attack launched via Man-Portable Air Defense Systems. This close call suspended flights from Israel temporarily. It also highlighted the need to develop and implement anti-missile systems to protect passenger planes.

MANPAD Threat To Aviation

The global proliferation of MANPADS seriously threatens commercial aviation and VIP aircraft. These transportable lethal weapons have become increasingly available to terrorists and non-state actors.

Around 20 countries have produced or have licenses to produce MANPADS or their components. The total number of MANPADS in the global inventory is difficult to estimate. The black market cost of MANPADS can range from a few hundred dollars to over one hundred thousand dollars.

The most common type of MANPADS is the first-generation infrared-homing system designed by the former Soviet Union, known as the SA-7b. This is the type most terrorist groups hold, according to the U.S. Department of State. Non-state actors acquire MANPADS from gray and black markets, arms dealers, corrupt officials, and by other means.

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