Israel is to begin protecting its passenger planes from attack by terrorists equipped with shoulder-fired missiles by means of a revolutionary new defense system.
The system, built by local Elbit Systems, was secretly tested recently to great success, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported on Sunday night, and government approval has now been secured for its installation. In testing, the system proved capable of deflecting single and multiple missiles away from the target plane.
The need for the systems is deemed particularly acute because of ongoing tension between Israel and Iran, which funds and arms Hamas to Israel’s south in Gaza, and Hezbollah to Israel’s north in Lebanon. Hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles are reported to have been smuggled into the Egyptian Sinai of late, and there have also been reports that the missiles — Russian surface-to-air missiles taken from Libyan arsenals — have reached terror groups in Gaza.
Initially, the defense systems – which cost $1 million per plane – are being installed on airlines, including the national carrier El Al, flying what are defined as “sensitive routes,” the TV report said.
Approval for the installation caps a multi-year testing process. Design of the system – which is effective at a plane’s vulnerable take-off and landing stages — was prioritized after a foiled effort to down an Israeli civilian airliner taking off from Mombasa 10 years ago.