U.S. ANTI-S.A.M. EFFORTS BEGIN

After terrorists in Kenya fired shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli charter Boeing 757 last year, the world's passenger jets looked like sitting ducks.Today, "the federal government will announce that it is taking the first steps toward outfitting the nation's commercial airliners with electronic protection" against this threat, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The Department of Homeland Security plans to award two companies contracts to build prototypes of anti-missile systems that will be tested for effectiveness and durability. It will also issue a general call to other companies to offer their ideas for deflecting heat-seeking missiles, thousands of which are believed to be in the hands of terrorist groups around the world.The technology (for countering the missiles) generally consists of a sensor system on a plane's underside, sometimes with a mounted pod that contains a guidance system or a heat source.Some of the existing systems jam missiles' guidance systems, while others send out a heat source to deflect the missile.A low-tech version, which could be pilot-initiated, involves launching flares to attract the missile. However, those systems depend on advance warning to the cockpit.
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