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Monday, March 19, 2007

This Week's Silliest Idea? or Not?

In the desperate search for a cheaper solution to the MANPAD's shoulder-fired missile threat at airports worldwide, DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Jay Cohen has previewed a concept involving a robot "eye in the sky". The Dept. of Homeland Security suggestion is that instead of each and every airliner carrying an anti-MANPADs Detection and Destruction Kit, one singular UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) should orbit major airports and do the job for all. It's been dubbed "Project Chloe" (after the well-known character with all the tech solutions in TV's action suspense sitcom "24"). It's a solution to another different type of threat profile. Airlines have rebelled en masse at the prospect of helping fund an $11bn project to equip every airliner with a missile deterrent. That figure is based upon a 2005 Rand study. On top of that is the added weight/drag and fuel penalties of having to carry such devices.

Having a UAV fly at 65,000ft over a major airport on persistent surveillance could be part-funded "by leasing onboard space to cellular telephone companies," says Jay Cohen. The US government has spent $121M researching counter-measures since 2003. DHS has spent $7.4M on funding a Raytheon, L-3 Comms and Northrop Grumman search for a non-laser jamming solution. Raytheon has the Vigilant Eagle (high energy counter-pulse), Skyguard (Northrop Grumman) uses a chemical-fuel laser, but both of these systems are ground-based. Avisys Corp (L-3) uses a warning system to trigger low-tech infra-red decoys.

The idea behind the high-level UAV is to seduce any missiles to a height beyond their maximum ceiling, exhausting their fuel and causing them to drop from the sky. "Will it work? I don't know, but we're going to do it," Cohen told a 13 March homeland security technology summit.
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