Feeds

DHS robotic airport missile-patrol plan to be shelved

Droid dazzler overwatch ploy too pricey

Top three mobile application threats

It appears that plans for patrolling robotic laser missile-muddler guardian aircraft above US airports have been shelved. The idea has been assessed as too expensive to be practical.

Under the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "Project Chloe", the unmanned aeroplanes would have been equipped to detect any possible terrorist surface-to-air missile launches against airliners departing or arriving from the airport below. The droid protectors would then have used powerful laser dazzlers to confuse the missiles' seeker heads, sending them safely off track.

Flight International reports today that US weaponry'n'aerospace globocorp Northrop Grumman, hired by the DHS to evalute the Project Chloe plan, has found that it would be much more difficult and expensive to implement than the security bureau had thought.

The evaluations have included simulations, and test flights using the White Knight high-altitude jet operated by Scaled Composites, which famously carried the X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne to glory and is now used as a flying testbed.

The possible area of ground from which a Man Portable Air Defence System (MANPADS, a shoulder-fired missile) could hit a low-flying airliner is large. MANPADS can strike within a plan range of 5km or so, and at heights up to ten thousand feet. This means that three Project Chloe patrollers at 65,000 feet would be needed to cover each airport, not one as the DHS had thought.

"You're looking at a fleet of great numbers. It becomes a very costly approach," Northrop's Dave Denton told Flight.

MANPADS have already been used by terrorists and insurgents. An Israeli charter flight was targeted using MANPADS in Kenya in 2002, and a British military helicopter was shot down over Basra in 2006 using a Russian SA-14 probably supplied via Iran. Going further back, the CIA supplied large numbers of effective "Stinger" MANPADS to hardline Islamic mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s, for use against Russian aircraft.

That said, however, MANPADS are hard to get hold of - much rarer than simple RPG unguided armour-piercing rockets - and require more skill to maintain and use. Given that even RPGs have seldom been seen in the hands of domestic terror cells in Western nations, there are those who doubt that MANPADS are a likely threat to normal airliner operations. Even in Middle Eastern warzones, though the fear of MANPADS often heavily circumscribes the operations of western air forces, such weapons appear only rarely.

In any case, it appears that the Project Chloe airliner-protection scheme is dead in the water. Northrop are due to report on Chloe in January, and after that little further progress is foreseen.

"DHS has not suggested there's any continuation of the programme for Chloe and anti-MANPADS," Denton told Flight. "They have not suggested to us there is any more funding."

However, the DHS has other MANPADS-buster schemes - for instance robotic suicide bodyguard escort planes, or the fitting of airliners with military-style dazzler countermeasures. These too have their critics, but remain under consideration for now. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.