Teams to develop anti-missile devices for commercial aircraft

Teams led by BAE Systems plc, Northrop Grumman Corp. and United Airlines have been chosen to design prototypes of anti-missile devices to protect commercial aircraft, Department of Homeland Security officials announced today.

The three prime contractors have been invited to negotiate the agreements under which they will perform the work, officials said.

The teams will each develop a plan and test prototypes to help determine whether a viable technology exists that could be deployed to protect commercial aircraft from shoulder-fired missiles.

DHS officials said they want the contractors to adapt existing technology for commercial use, rather than developing new technology.

In phase I of the program, which begins this month, the teams will create a detailed design and an analysis of the economic, manufacturing and maintenance needs for supporting an anti-missile system for commercial aircraft. Phase I will last about six months, and will end in the selection of one to two contractors who will move to Phase II.

In Phase II, the teams will develop prototypes using existing military or commercial technology, which will then undergo rigorous test and evaluation. Phase II will last 12 to 18 months. Afterward, the department will recommend to the White House and Congress the most viable solution ? that which permits modifications of commercial aircraft with the least disruption and out-of-service costs to the airline industry, according to the department.

The department has received $60 million for the program in fiscal 2004 and will request $60 million for fiscal 2005, according to a statement.

"The president and the secretary are taking a very aggressive approach on measures to counter the potential threat of shoulder-fired missiles," said Charles McQueary, under secretary of the department's science and technology division. "These efforts are part of a larger undertaking by the administration that includes completing security assessments and implementing reasonable responsive measures at our nation's airports as well as working with our international partners to reduce the number of weapons potentially available to terrorists."

Farnborough, U.K.-based BAE Systems, Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman and Chicago-based United Airlines will each receive about $2 million for Phase I of the project, according to the department.

The three contractors were selected from among 24 candidates that submitted white papers in response to a solicitation issued in October, department officials said. Of that group, five contractors were invited to submit full proposals. Each of the five final candidates gave a four-hour oral presentation to government representatives, including officials from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State, Transportation and Treasury.

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