Thursday, December 30, 2004

Another threat to airline travel?

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US probes 'laser-tracked' flights:
"US investigators are examining a spate of cases in which laser beams have been shone into the cockpits of aircraft."

A total of six complaints have reached the FBI, including incidents in Cleveland and Colorado Springs. The latter location may be particularly significant since Colorado Springs is the location of the US Air Force Academy.

Even if the work of pranksters rather than terrorists, this is a serious issue. In 1997, Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly, USN suffered permanent eye damage in an incident where a laser was allegedly used by the Far East Shipping Company vessel Kapitan Man while it was believed to be surveilling US submarine activity in the vicinity of the US sub base in Bremerton, Washington. Daly as the intel officer was riding in a Canadian helicopter on a routine joint patrol when he and his Canadian pilot were illuminated by a laser while tracking the activities of the Kapitan Man. Both men were injured. You can find an AP story with more details on the incident here. The US government has been distinctly unhelpful in getting justice for Daly - here is a link to Bill Gertz' website item titled Navy roadblock.

If it is terrorists, they have not yet succeeded in bringing down a plane in this way, but that may not be their intention. A laser attack on the flight deck would give terrorists several advantages: 1) No need to gain entry to a plane, or even an airport; 2) Works at a distance which facilitates escape; 3) Likely to leave little or no physical evidence. But, you wouldn't want to do a lot of practicing because it increases the chance something will go wrong and get them caught. On the other hand, these might be range-finding exercises carried out as part of the planning for an attack with some sort of a projectile - anything from a sniper rifle to an RPG or missile.


Post a Comment

<< Home