FedEx wants to operate cargo planes equipped with lasers that launch incoming heat-seeking missiles, according to a recently released federal document.
In a filing Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration said FedEx had requested permission to add the missile defense system. The agency said “the FedEx Missile Defense System directs infrared laser energy at an incoming missile, in an effort to disrupt the missile’s tracking of the aircraft’s heat,” according to a filing released Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
There is cause for concern. In 2003, a surface-to-air missile struck the left wing of an Airbus A330 operating for DHL just after takeoff from Baghdad. The crew returned to the airport safe and sound.
“In recent years, in several incidents overseas, civilian aircraft have been targeted by man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS),” the FAA document states. “This has led several companies to design and adapt systems like a laser-based missile defense system for installation on civilian aircraft, to protect those aircraft against heat-seeking missiles.”
Now, aviation regulators will hear 45 days of public comment before approving “a system that emits infrared laser energy outside the aircraft as a countermeasure against heat-seeking missiles” on the Airbus A321-200.
The FAA document says FedEx began the government approval process for the A321-200 modification in 2019, even though the company does not yet own such planes. FedEx did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The FAA states that any approval must include “means that prevent inadvertent activation of the ground system, including during aircraft maintenance and ground handling” because laser accidents “can lead to eye and skin lesions”.