Infrared Countermeasures (IRCM) for Airliners


#1

Recently, numerous studies have launched to look at the feasibility of modifying civ airliners with an IRCM system…

As airline pilots and management, enthusiasts and industry watchers…what are your thoughts on sticking a $1M, 600# system to an airplane to protect it from ground missile threats? With fuel at over $100 a bucket I’d especially like to here your opinions in these cost constrained times…


#2

Generally, I think it’s a countermeasure against a threat that doesn’t exist.


#3

Explain…


#4

I think that the likelihood of a heat-seeking missile attack on a commercial airliner is an order of magnitude less than that of exploding sneakers.


#5

While I agree with you on domestic flights, the same may not be so true on the international flights.

Allen


#6

PA,

If you wouldn’t mind…just to qualify your threat assesment…could you provide a general snipet of your background…ie: airline crew, mgt, etc…


#7

The international locales where attacks of such nature are most likely (central Africa, mostly) are generally not served by airlines that will make that sort of investment in their equipment.

Further, from ALPA:

Missile attacks against civil aircraft are not new, but the history of these events shows that there are very few proven instances where an airliner was attacked, and in most of these cases the airliner survived to land safely. All but one of these attacks occurred in areas of military or civil conflict. There have been no known attacks in the U.S., and it is impossible to predict the probability of an attack against a U.S. airline.

Linky

I just don’t see a MANPAD attack on a commercial airliner as being a likely scenario. A PanAm 103-type attack is FAR more likely, in the US or abroad, in my opinion.


#8

Civil/Structural Engineer, worked in many foreign lands, keen interest in aviation.

i.e., Qualifications? None.

These are just my opinions based on what I’ve read, what I’ve seen, and where I’ve been.

Also, let’s look at the state-of-the-art of technology that would be made available for deployment on commercial aircraft. Keep in mind that this equipment would be installed, operated and maintained by ordinary civilians with no security clearance whatsoever. Are we to presume that the IRCM gear that would be made available would be on par with what is fitted to current military aircraft? Methinks … no.

Further, for every young, bright, industrious IRCM (or EOCM, for that matter) designer in the world, there’s at least one equally young, bright industrious IRCCM/EOCCM designer.


#9

What about American airlines like Delta, Northwest and other airlines that go overseas?

I’d pretty much agree a Delta flight going from ATL to KJAN won’t be hit by heat seeking missile (I’d hope not anyway!!!), but what about those flights overseas? I’d suspect the chance, no matter how minute a chance it may be, it would be more then inside the great US of A.

All it takes is one flight in an area of unrest like London, and with quite a few folks being “anti American” overseas even in areas where we consider the countries our ally, an investment of anti missile defense would pay for itself.

At least the passengers sitting on the plane under attack probaby would feel that way as it only takes one. Why not be proactive? If the missile launchers know there is anti missile equipment on board, then that may give them less reason to try and shoot a plane down.

At least this is how my simple mind works. :smiley:

Allen


#10

I don’t think that Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Beijing, Seoul, Paris, etc., are likely sites for a MANPAD attack on a commercial jet. The one real credible attempt was on an El-Al flight out of Nairobi, and was unsuccessful. Despite what may be portrayed in spy novels, movies and TV shows, surface-to-air engagements are not simple. Furthermore, a successful engagement against a large commercial jet would probably not destroy the plane anyway. At worst, the aircraft will sustain an uncontained failure of one engine. Look here for photos and story regarding the DHL Airbus that took a missile strike at 8,000 ft over Baghdad on 22 NOV 2003. While some may point to this incident as proof that the threat is real, I suggest that it proves just the opposite: that the threat is exceedingly rare. This is one incident, which occurred over a hot (at the time) combat zone. And, while the plane was damaged extensively, the brilliant, tough and courageous flight crew made a spectacular landing of the crippled jet.

If terrorist organizations, organized or not, we capable of bringing down commercial aircraft with MANPADS, we’d have seen it by now. Fortunately, we haven’t.

So, then, what are some real threats to commercial flights? Well, what countermeasures were ever employed to protect flight crews from high-intensity lasers in the cockpit, which was all the rage a couple of years ago? What about a food-borne biological attack?

Trust me fellas, my mind is simpler than any of yours! :wink: Still, I’m not on board with the concept of MANPADs as a credible threat to commercial aircraft.


#11

Allen, Pa,

'Preciate the good answers…PA, thanks for the background info.

I think what’s important to point out here is not how probable an attack but rather, how possible. As Allen pointed out, all it takes is one shot and the industry will turn itself inside out trying to explain why available technology wasn’t installed.

Further, at less than $.5M for a MANPADS, this highly mobile threat is certainly capable of being employed by a moderately financed, well organized entity. According to recent Threat Assessments, this is what makes the threat wholly possible, in itself.

As far as the ALPAs assertion (“The international locales where attacks of such nature are most likely (central Africa, mostly) are generally not served by airlines that will make that sort of investment in their equipment…”) is concerned, their logic is dangerously flawed. The cheap, mobile nature of these weapons affords an enemy the opportunity to travel well beyond Africa to attempt an attack. Most vulnerable are airports close to the sea with weak or absent security in place (e.g. Caribbean, Central and South Amer). Arguablly, these are locations “served by airlines that [might] make that sort of investment in their equipment…”


#12

I’m another engineer with a simple mind and: http://www.z4-forum.com/forum/images/smilies/iamwithstupid.gif


#13

JackmanHL:

I recognize your position. I don’t agree with it, but I appreciate where you’re coming from.

Let me try to explain the rationale for my opinion. When I design a structure, I must design it to resist certain forces. Some of those forces are known (for example, the weight of the structure itself, the weight of the contents) and some are unknown (for example, the wind, seismic, snow and ice loads). In the case of loads that are unknown, we have methods to estimate certain loads based on probability of occurrence. Take wind, for example. For a particular geographical location, we can estimate the 3-second gust velocity, and we can estimate the compounding aerodynamic effect of the terrain that surrounds the structure. From that, we can make a reasonable estimate of the magnitude of the loads that will be imposed upon the structure at hand.

However, we don’t design ordinary structures to withstand the forces imposed by a truck bomb. We could, and we do for “special” structures, but not for ordinary structures. Why? Because there isn’t sufficient probability of that occurrence to warrant the design.

I do not believe that the probability of the occurrence of a MANPAD shoot-down of a commercial aircraft warrants IRCM installation. Is a MANPAD shoot-down of a commercial aircraft possible? Absolutely! Is it likely to occur? No. Is the scenario of an organized terrorist group simultaneously hijacking 4 commercial jets and using them as flying fuel-air bombs in a coordinated attack on multiple targets possible? Well, yes. Is it likely to ever occur again? Thankfully, no.


#14

[quote=“JHEM”]

Eye useta coodent speel injunear, now eye are won!


#15

PA,

Your position does hold water however, I would submit that it only holds water in the engineer’s universe…a universe I actually appreciate…

However, in the policy maker’s universe, the possibility of the “golden BB” is a very real motivator and it just might drive this effort forward. Mind you, the missile doesn’t even have to hit…h3ll, it never even has to leave its tube!

Say for instance, a bad guy with a MANPADS is caught hiding in the woods at the outer marker someplace or floating in a private boat off the depature end at LAX…rest assured, the threat will become very real and the paranoia will force politicians and industry types to act and act swiftly.

Personally, I believe the govt, the airlines and the acft manf. are all going to have to figure out what they’re going to do in a world with over a million MANPADS. Realistically, one could assume the technology will be presented as an option rather than a mandate in the future in order to satisfy both universes…but who knows…

Really good puts by the way…thanks for keeping the dialogue alive…


#16

PA,

Your position does hold water however, I would submit that it only holds water in the engineer’s universe…a universe I actually appreciate…

However, in the policy maker’s universe…

An inordinately salient point, my friend! This great nation had two engineers as President in the last century. Arguably, both were failures in office. What makes keen sense in the (occasionally) rational mind of an engineer will rarely placate the whims of the body politic. Ask me about building codes, sometime… :angry:

So, let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that all parties agree that IRCM on commercial jets is a fine idea. By what mechanism would this be implemented? If The Government hands down the Golden Edict, “Make It So!” are the airlines supposed to specify, test, procure, install and operate the gear on their own dime? In general, industry does not sit well under the thumb of the “unfunded mandate.” So, then, will The Government cough up the (insert 6-to-7-digit number here) dollars per aircraft to accomplish the decree? Will foreign carriers operating in US airspace be required to have IRCM? What about foreign code-share partners of US carriers who operate overseas? Charters?

Again, the practical execution of such a premise hurls multiple monkey wrenches into the works of this (most non-Presidential) engineer’s grey matter.

Yeah, that’s right! I spell the color with an “e” not an “a”.

Philbert

P.S. - Surveyors, on the other hand, have made particularly remarkable Presidents. Mount Rushmore depicts three surveyors and a cop.


#17

Thanks for the link to the DHL fotos. I’m sold!

Read up on your Dutch politics!

This issue is like the need for a stop sign down on the corner. Nobody (especially the local government non-leaders) see the need for the stop sign until a child is run over and killed. This threat has been glowing red long before 9/11 gave us a brief (and now hidden) glimpse into the enemy we still face.


#18

On what? That DHL > FedEx? :wink:

Don’t need to. I’m down. The MANPADs that are on the loose aren’t in Europe, and they’re not likely to be. They’re mostly in the 'Stans, central Africa and a few in C/S America. They are primarily weapons of war, and are being employed in their designed role - to prevent aerial attacks on ground forces. Sure, the “ground forces” may be scumbags of the highest order, but they perceive themselves as warriors engaged against an enemy. The SA-14s and such that are presently in the hands of folks we’d rather not have them are part of their immediate Order of Battle. I’m sure there are rogue zealots who fantasize about popping off a Stinger against the hated Western Infidels, but frankly they haven’t got the means to accomplish the task.

This issue is like the need for a stop sign down on the corner. Nobody (especially the local government non-leaders) see the need for the stop sign until a child is run over and killed. This threat has been glowing red long before 9/11 gave us a brief (and now hidden) glimpse into the enemy we still face.

Well, maybe…

The DHL hit occurred over a hot combat zone. That’s it. That’s the one instance. Would the city council erect a stop sign on an interstate if a child was run over and killed there?

The 20 immediate perpetrators of the attacks on 11 SEP 01 used box cutters to commandeer 4 jets. The jets became the weapons. This mentality remains today within al Qaida - us our own resources against us.


#19

To me, that’s just another thing the airline’s need to pay for and is just another thing that can break. There are a lot of more probable situations then ground missiles.


#20

PA,

I will attempt to address your comments specifically…

  • So, let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that all parties agree that IRCM on commercial jets is a fine idea. By what mechanism would this be implemented? If The Government hands down the Golden Edict, “Make It So!” are the airlines supposed to:
    – specify on their own dime? No…much of that has been done by govt-- test on their own dime? No…much of that has been done by govt-- procure on their own dime? IMO, this will be like seatbelts…a grant to the manf. at first to put it on the jets, airlines purchasing the jet and passing the costs off to you & I-- install on their own dime? Btwn the airline and the manf.-- operate the gear on their own dime? Yes

– In general, industry does not sit well under the thumb of the “unfunded mandate.” So, then, will The Government cough up the (insert 6-to-7-digit number here) dollars per aircraft to accomplish the decree? Yes. Already done
– Will foreign carriers operating in US airspace be required to have IRCM? Unknown
– What about foreign code-share partners of US carriers who operate overseas? Unknown
– Charters? Some have already gone down this path however, if I were to tell you who, you would have to be destroyed by me…