This ought to cause airline passengers the world over to pucker up a bit next time they board an aircraft.
U.S. officials had once thought there was little chance that terrorists could get their hands on many of the portable surface-to-air missiles that can bring down a commercial jet liner.
But now that calculation is out the window, with officials at a recent secret White House meeting reporting that thousands of them have gone missing in Libya.
“Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that’s our worst nightmare,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-California, a member of the Senate’s Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee.
The nightmare has been made real with the discovery in Libya that an estimated 20,000 portable, heat-seeking missiles have gone missing from unguarded Army weapons warehouses.
The missiles, four to six-feet long and Russian-made, can weigh just 55 pounds with launcher. They lock on to the heat generated by the engines of aircraft, can be fired from a vehicle or from a combatant’s shoulder, and are accurate and deadly at a range of more than two miles.
Adding to the urgency is the fact that America’s passenger jets, like those of most countries, are sitting ducks, despite years of warning about the missile threat. Since the 1970s, according to the U.S. State Department, more than 40 civilian planes around the world have been hit by surface-to-air missiles. In 2003, Iraqi insurgents hit a DHL cargo plane with a missile in Baghdad. Though on fire, the plane was able to land safely. Four years later, militants knocked a Russian-built cargo plane out of the sky over Somalia, killing all 11 crew members.
You will find the rest of the story here.
Given that this has been going on for at least six months (I would guess it has been going on even longer) I think it is a safe bet that a certain number of these missiles have already found their way into the hands of al Qaeda, or some other camel-washer group with an axe to grind.
US airliners fly to many places in the Middle East all the time, so the terrorists do not actually have to get a launcher over to this side of the pond to kill a lot of innocent Americans. And given the region’s proximity to Europe, how difficult would it be for the bad guys to get one near an airport there?
Many airports of the world are built right on the coastlines of their respective countries. With an effective range of two miles, the terrorists would not even have to sneak into any countries to kill infidels. They could do it from offshore.
For once, I actually agree with Sen. Boxer, as I think installing the laser countermeasure system in commercial airliners is probably the best thing that could be done, as 20,000 compact SAM missiles is a lot of potential dead passengers, and there is no way all of the missing missiles will be recovered.
I would call $1 million per aircraft cheap insurance.