FedEx offers anti-missile lasers for some aircraft

When tensions in contested areas increase, the FAA tends to restrict civilian air traffic around those areas, forcing them to take less direct routes that cost more time and fuel.

The Air Line Pilots Association, a union that represents FedEx pilots as well as those of other carriers, did not immediately return a request for comment on the measure. FedEx did not immediately return a request for comment.

Fund: FedEx requested to acquire the capacity in 2019; Friday’s notice outlines the proposed technology and invites comment on it. Because the system is beyond the design scope of FAA certification, it requires special condition approval, the notice said. The infrared system must meet FAA airworthiness standards.

It is not uncommon for aircraft using sensitive routes to have additional defensive measures. El Al Israel Airlines, for example, has anti-aircraft missile technology on board its commercial planes. The VC-25 aircraft, commonly referred to as Air Force One when the president is on board, has electronic and infrared countermeasures to block or deflect incoming missiles.

There have been incidents of surface-to-air missiles hitting both cargo and commercial aircraft transiting hostile areas over the years. In 2003, an Airbus DHL Express cargo plane was hit in its left wing by a shoulder-fired missile, crippling its hydraulics shortly after takeoff from Baghdad, Iraq. The three-man crew was not injured in the incident.

More recently, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by more sophisticated military-grade surface-to-air missiles on takeoff from Tehran, Iran in 2020, killing all on board.

The technology used to be tested in some cargo aircraft in 2008.

And after: The “new or unusual design feature” can only apply to its A321 model, the FAA said, unless the company seeks additional certification to upgrade other models. The proposed special condition will be published in the Federal Register on January 18, with comments open for 45 days after that.