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Monday, January 14, 2008

Is it safe to fly into and out of Ben Gurion Airport?

After President Bush landed in Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday, he was taken by car to Jerusalem, which resulted in the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv highway being shut down for hours. We were told that the reason for that was that cloud cover made flying him to Jerusalem by helicopter impossible. But was it? The World Tribune claims otherwise (Hat Tip: In from the Cold)
Israeli sources said the U.S. Secret Service canceled Bush's plans to travel by helicopter from Ben-Gurion Airport to Jerusalem on Wednesday. The sources said the Secret Service determined that Bush's helicopter could be targeted by an attacker with a surface-to-air missile.

"There was an intense last-minute discussion about the possibility of a SAM attack," an Israeli source said. "When the Israeli side agreed that this could not be ruled out, the Secret Service decided to cancel the helicopter flight."
The threat becoming a real possibility is apparently quite new:
The Secret Service assessment marked a departure from an earlier CIA report that Palestinians in the West Bank could not threaten Ben-Gurion airport with SAMs. The CIA assessment was issued in 2005 during talks with Israel on plans to build a security barrier some five kilometers into the West Bank, located adjacent to the airport.
In from the Cold notes:
Today's decision provides another reminder of the growing MANPAD threat to VIP and civilian aircraft. As we noted in a recent post, older shoulder-fired SAMS are readily available on the arms market, sometimes for only a few hundred dollars. More advanced MANPADS can also be acquired, at prices up to $100,000. That's a relatively cheap price, considering the economic--and political--damage that could be inflicted with a single, successful MANPAD attack.

The same missiles available in the West Bank, Gaza (and elsewhere in the Middle East) could be easily smuggled into the United States. That's why the cancellation of Mr. Bush's helicopter ride should re-ignite the debate on self-defense systems for U.S. commercial jets. The Department of Homeland Security will mount defensive gear on three American Airlines jets this spring, part of a test to determine maintenance and fuel costs. Installing anti-missile suites on most commercial jets is still years away--and the airlines are fighting the proposal.
Here in Israel, the national carrier has a missile protection system installed on all of its aircraft, partly as a result of a 2002 attempt to shoot down an El Al plane in Kenya. Other carriers may not be so protected. Is this threat real? With all due respect to the CIA, I don't think there's a real threat today of the 'Palestinians' shooting down a commercial jet taking off from or landing at Ben Gurion. However, if the 'security barrier' becomes the border - as much of our left wishes to be the case - I would be quite leery about flying anything but El Al into or out of Ben Gurion.

As to the rest of the world, the sooner this type of equipment becomes standard, the better.


At 4:48 PM, Blogger heroyalwhyness said...

This link provides a dated list of missile/rocket reports


Aviation Nation has run a couple of recent articles as well:



At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I confusing it with something else or is the World Tribune a crackpot socialist Marxist shmatta?

At 5:36 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Of course - handing over the Judean/Samarian mountain range to the Arabs would practically shut down Ben Gurion airport as well as place all of Israel's major cities within rocket range. In any peace agreement, Israel would have to retain control of the high ground to prevent Israel from being turned into a mega-Sderot.

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course - handing over the Judean/Samarian mountain range to the Arabs would practically shut down Ben Gurion airport"

Israel will build a big giant elastic net around the airport to bounce incoming missiles back in the direction they came from.

We're so smart!


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