Senator plans to ask FAA for missile defense systems on commercial airliners


Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Amsterdam. (Yaron Mofaz/Reuters)

In the wake of the destruction of a Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down over eastern Ukraine, a United States senator says commercial aircraft should come with active defenses.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.) says he will petition the Federal Aviation Administration to install missile defense systems on commercial airliners.

“I think they should actively look into mounting active defenses on civil aircraft that are carrying hundreds of people,” said Kirk, a former Navy intelligence officer. “It’s not too technically difficult to add a radar warning system on an aircraft, where a pilot in command could dispense chaff to defeat a radar guided missile.”

Kirk said he would write to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to propose defense systems. He said the over throw of Muammar Gaddafi and collapse of the Iraqi army had allowed large stockpiles of surface to air missiles to fall into uncertain hands.

“At this point we can’t just hide. We should think about how to defeat this threat technically,” Kirk said. “We should advise passengers whether an aircraft has active defenses or not and let them make the decision as they’re booking. I think that would really restore a lot of confidence in the system.”

The FAA has already taken some action after the downing of the Malaysia Air flight, banning any U.S. flight from operating over eastern Ukraine.

Kirk said that identification of the missile that brought down MH17 as a Buk SA-11 suggested that active duty Russian military had a hand in the act.

​”The the Buk missile system is such a complicated radar guided system. I would think a bunch of Ukranian hillbillies would not have an ability to operate it efficiently,” Kirk said. “You would have to have the back up of the active duty Russian military to properly deploy and use the Buk.”

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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