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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 16:10 GMT
BAE gets missile defence contract
Missile launcher
The missile launcher used to attack an Israeli aircraft back in 2002
Defence and aerospace group BAE Systems has been chosen by the US Government to develop a system to protect passenger planes from terrorist missile attacks.

The Hampshire-based company has been picked alongside American firms United Airlines and Northrop Grumman.

Each is being asked to develop existing military missile detection and counter-measure equipment into a system that can be used by civil aircraft.

The US Government wants to counter the threat of shoulder-fired missiles.

It comes amid ever-increasing airline security fears, which have led to the repeated delay or cancellation of a British Airways flight between London and Washington DC.

Near miss

It also follows an attack on an Israeli passenger aircraft by a shoulder-fired missile in November 2002.

The plane was flying out of Mombasa Airport in Kenya, and, fortunately, the missile failed to hit the aircraft.

BAE System's initial contract is worth $2m (1.1m) and will last for approximately six months.

It has been awarded by the US Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology division.

Dr Charles McQueary, the division's under secretary, said the US was taking "a very aggressive approach on measures to counter the potential threat of shoulder-fired missiles".

Major player

He added: "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."

BAE Systems, which owns 20% of European airline manufacturer Airbus, is also currently undertaking a number of high profile defence manufacturing contracts for the UK Government.

These include its Hawk jet fighter/trainer, and two next-generation aircraft carriers.

However, the latter have been dogged by persistent rumours of budgetary problems, and disputes between BAE Systems and the Ministry of Defence.

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