Merkel’s Airbus Jets Get Protection From Growing Missile Threat

Airbus SAS planes used by German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be equipped with a system to safeguard them from attack by heat-seeking missiles.

The two ACJ319s, business jet versions of the A319 short-haul plane, will be equipped with Northrop Grumman Corp.’s large-aircraft infrared countermeasure system under a $26 million contract, the U.S. Department of Defense said.

Conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa have raised concern that shoulder-fired missiles able to lock onto aircraft engines will become more readily available to terrorists. Germany, which has 4,200 troops supporting NATO operations in Afghanistan, will also carry out medical evacuation flights with the planes, which have a range of 4,100 nautical miles.

The Pentagon said May 15 it was in talks with Oman and Qatar to install the Northrop Grumman system on head-of-state aircraft including Boeing Co. 747-8s. Other buyers include Morocco and Saudi Arabia, contract notices show.

Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, declined to comment on the German upgrade, which the Pentagon said in a statement yesterday will be completed by March 31, 2016.

The planes have been in their current role since 2010, according to the website of the German air force or Luftwaffe.

Two missiles fired at a Boeing 757 chartered by Arkia Israeli Airlines Ltd. as it took off from Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002, missed their target. An Airbus A300 freighter operating for DHL was forced to make an emergency landing in Baghdad a year later after being struck by a missile.