Laser, Microwave Weapons Tested For Airports

Oct 26, 2006 (12:10 PM EDT)

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Laser and microwave weapons could soon protect U.S. airports under a plan being tested by the Department of Homeland Security and Raytheon.

Raytheon announced this week that it won a $4.1 million contract, with an option of $1.2 million more to test itsVigilant Eagle Airport Protection System. The system aims electromagnetic energy at shoulder-fired missiles to throw them off course. Raytheon describes it as an invisible "dome of protection around airfields."

Vigilant Eagle consists of a missile detection system, tracking capabilities, a command and control center and a billboard-sized active electronically scanned array of antennas attached to amplifiers that send out energy beams.

"Raytheon's Vigilant Eagle defeats man-portable missiles in seconds without any alteration to or involvement by the aircraft using the airport," Mike Booen, vice president of Directed Energy Weapons at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz., said through a prepared statement. "Not only has our Vigilant Eagle system been proved effective, but it protects all aircraft using an airport and can be rapidly deployed at a reasonable cost."

Raytheon will test the system at a DHS-chosen site as a step toward protecting more airports with anti-missile systems.

Raytheon is also working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to provide a Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS) to safeguard the region's four airports: John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, and Teterboro. The Raytheon-led team will design, develop and deploy the security system; provide complete infrastructure development; integrate existing and future access control and intrusion detection systems; and provide training and maintenance.

Raytheon's systems are among several efforts underway to enhance airport security.