A FedEx Airbus A300F4-605R is unloaded in Los Angeles
Photo: - / dpa
The US courier and logistics group FedEx has asked the FAA for permission to install a special laser system for missile defense on its Airbus cargo planes.
FedEx wants to use the lasers to fend off incoming heat-seeking missiles, according to a new document released by the FAA and first reported by news channel CNN.
In the document, the Federal Aviation Administration states that FedEx has requested permission to install the missile defense system on its modified Airbus A321-200.
"This design feature is a system that emits infrared laser energy outside the aircraft as a countermeasure against heat-seeking missiles," it says.
The laser energy is intended to break the pursuit of the missile due to the aircraft's heat.
Cause for concern about rocket fire
Previous attacks on aircraft show that there is reason for concern.
In 2003, for example, a rocket hit the wing of a freight plane operated by the German parcel service DHL over Baghdad.
The plane landed with one wing on fire, the crew was unharmed.
The FAA also points this out in its document on the FedEx plans.
In the discussion of the project, the FAA also explains that in recent years, civilian aircraft have been fired on by portable air defense systems in several incidents abroad.
"This has prompted several companies to develop and adapt systems such as a laser-based missile defense system for installation on civilian aircraft to protect those aircraft from heat-seeking missiles." missile to be disrupted by the heat of the aircraft.
Laser hazard for humans
However, infrared laser energy also poses a hazard to people on the plane, on the ground and in other aircraft, the authors of the FAA document caution. The risk is particularly high because infrared light is invisible to the human eye. Human exposure to infrared laser energy could cause eye and skin damage and affect the flight crew's ability to control the aircraft. For this reason, too, the FAA requires that accidental activation of such a system be prevented.
Aviation authorities will now consult the public for 45 days before approving the system.
According to the document, FedEx, whose air cargo division FedEx Express ranks first in the list of the world's largest cargo airlines, initiated the regulatory approval process for the modification of A321-200 aircraft back in 2019.