Malaysian Airlines MH17 shot down in Ukraine – anti-missile equipment?
WORLD / Malaysia – Malaysian Airlines suffered its second shock tragedy.
Just a few months after one of its passenger aircraft when missing – the MH370 plane was presumed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean – another Boeing 777 airplane has crashed. This time the circumstances are different. The MH17 was shot down in Ukraine with its 280 passengers and 15 crew. No survivor reports have been made.
In a CRS report for Congress on protecting airliners from terrorist missiles, the late Christopher Bolkcom and Bartholomew Elias reports no single solution exists to mitigate the surface-to-air missiles (SAM) threats to airliners. Installing infrared anti-missile technology would be costly on commercial planes, estimated to be “between $1 million and $3 million per aircraft”. Above costs of acquiring such technology, other issues such as “cost and difficulty of integrating them into the aircraft, life cycle costs, environmental constraints on their use, and the fear that they may promote perceptions that flying is not safe” could come into play.
Weapon technology also advances far more rapidly than countermeasures, due to huge government funding. Thus a technology that is installed in an aircraft may not be effective against newer missiles a few years down the road.
How about using flares like military aircrafts?
While flares are effective in confusing an infrared-guided missile, causing it to lose its target through the flares’ engulfing heatmap, this may not be effective on newer models of missiles, or other non-IR missiles. These IR countermeasures are used preemptively – a huge difference in application for a jet fighter entering hostile airspace and a commercial airline. A commercial airplane’s bulky built also doesn’t make flares or other IR countermeasures feasible.
Other suggestions such as pilot training, making flight patterns unpredictable, reducing heat emission in airplanes are only mitigating factors. In the case of MH17, these suggestions could not have prevented it from crashing. Only an anti-missile technology system can, somewhat.
With anti-missile technology in commercial airplanes, operating costs will increase, and flight ticket prices would sky-rocket. Even so, a plane may still crash from other non-missile situations.
As a pilot, safety is key. As a passenger, safety is key. As the crew on board, safety is key. Even if anti-missile technology becomes a mandatory equipment in every passenger aircraft in the world, the risk of flying (or sailing) can never be truly mitigated.
At this moment, our hearts go out to the families of passengers, crew and pilots on board MH17.