The American Airline planes that fly daily between JFK and California will be fitted with military anti-missile laser jammers this spring as part of an ongoing test to see how these devices work in a civilian setting, a spokeswoman for DHS said. The devices will be observed over a period of 7,000 hours to see if the technology holds up to the long flight hours, continuous landings and takeoffs, and regular maintenance in commercial hangars."A fighter jet will have different specifications than a jumbo jet liner. We have to see if it can operate in an airport before Congress and the administration can approve it for full time use," said Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) welcomed the test, saying it will give American passengers an added sense of security."We have fought for these for a long time to make sure that our planes are safe. While we are fortunate that we haven't needed these protection devices yet, it is important to know that they are there to thwart a terrorist who might strike," he said in a statement. City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), whose district includes JFK, also praised Homeland Security for providing the best when it comes to protecting passengers. Sanders, a former Marine, said the devices are some of the most sophisticated defenses used by the military during in combat."I personally am glad that we are integrating, even though on a experimental basis, anti-missile technology on the jets," he said. "The price will be expensive but it will be far cheaper than the loss of human life."The main component of the device will rest on the belly of the jet while four sensors will be placed on the front and rear section, Kudwa said. The devices detect oncoming missiles using lasers and would deploy anti-aircraft flares in an emergency.Kudwa said passengers who fly the planes during the test period would not be inconvenienced during the approximately yearlong program. The $29 million test of the devices, which will not have the flares, will not involve any deployment of dummy missiles or terrorism drills."Nothing will be fired at the jets. The test is looking at the feasibility of the devices on the aircraft," she said.In 2003, Congress asked Homeland Security to test the devices on commercial aircraft to give them better security in case of a terrorist attack, Kudwa said. The department conducted two phases of testing that looked adapting the devices for civilian use.Three years later Homeland Security started its third phase to see how the devices worked on a flying airplane, according to Kudwa. The anti-missile technology was tested on older aircraft and out-of-service passenger jets.Despite the added measures, Councilman Sanders reminded residents that the best way to prevent potential terrorist attacks was to keep a sharp eye and warn authorities if they see something suspicious."It takes a long time to set a missile up and that gives people ample time to call someone and stop it from something," he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2008 Community News Group
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