No lasers for FedEX cargo planes to save from missile attack

It appears that the FAA has made a blunder. Remember when the US Federal Aviation Administration stated that FedEx might be able to mount a laser on its delivery planes to knock missiles out of the sky? No, the FAA said on Thursday (via Reuters) that “additional internal investigation is necessary,” and that the idea “is not moving forward at this time.”

Before you say that of course the FAA wouldn’t let a private company mount a frickin’ laser beam (sorry, old reference), keep in mind that we’re not talking about the kind of high-energy solid state lasers that can literally blast things until they catch fire and/or explode — though the US military has certainly tested those types of lasers aboard large aircraft as well.

FedEx proposed a “Infrared Laser Countermeasure Mechanism,” which is a fancy name for a high-power laser pointer (with a sophisticated targeting system) that blinds incoming missiles before they hit. According to The Drive, the US has been looking into ways to shield airliners against missile strikes for some time, especially given the development of cheap shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile systems, and laser systems appeared to be a viable but costly option.

In 2006, FedEx tried out one of the infrared pods, Northrop Grumman’s “Guardian” pods. A close-up of a Northrop Grumman infrared laser pod is shown below:

However, it doesn’t appear that any US commercial planes have the technology installed yet; according to the FAA’s request, FedEx’s adoption of a laser would have been “new or unique.”

It’s unclear who FedEx was intending to install on its flights when it submitted its application in October 2019, why the FAA decided to move forward this month, or why the FAA decided to abruptly stop it now – but your FedEx packages aren’t likely to be secured by laser anytime soon.

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