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It’s illegal for people to aim lasers at aircraft, but a French pilot says he’s been targeted four or five times over his 18 years in the cockpit. The shooter’s goal is to kill or damage planes. There’s no clear motive, but the incident is certainly alarming. But can we be sure that the shooter is not an employee of the French military?

Detection of laser pointers

A new research report reveals a potentially deadly method for the detection of laser pointers aimed at airplanes. Researchers have used retro-reflective markers placed in or near aircraft to measure the sensitivity of the detectors to lasers. These markers are in constant relative motion with the sources of light. This enables the detection of laser pointers if they are placed near a plane landing in Marseille.

Identification of MANPADS systems

The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OCSE) has been focusing efforts on strengthening MANPADS controls and stockpile security. Among other priorities, OCSE works to help host countries adopt policies that reduce their risk of MANPADS proliferation. However, there are still many questions about the global inventory of MANPADS systems. Fortunately, the Department of Defense is doing its part. The Department of Defense recently released a report titled ‘Identifying MANPADS Systems

As an international partner, the U.S. government is conducting a coordinated effort to counter the proliferation of MANPADS systems. This effort involves several different strategies, including the identification of MANPADS systems, developing techniques to counter the threats posed by these weapons, and reducing the likelihood of a successful attack. Here are a few ways in which this is happening. You can read the fact sheet from the U.S. Department of State.

Detection of YAL-1 infrared target acquisition system

On February 11, 2010, YAL-1 successfully engaged two test missile targets, one solid-fueled and one liquid-fueled. The aircraft involved in the demonstration was a Boeing 747 fuselage portion. The system was designed to detect the hot exhaust from TBMs during their boost phase. This new weapon was the most expensive military aircraft ever built. In its first test flight, it was capable of engaging a solid-fuel ballistic missile, but not a manned aircraft.

Detection of YAL-1 at JFK airport

The US Air Force has recently conducted a series of successful in-flight tests of the Target Illuminator Laser (TIL) on the YAL-1 Airborne Laser. Multiple photon beams were directed at the Big Crow target aircraft. YAL-1 also tracks potential targets and measures atmospheric turbulence. YAL-1 is equipped with a megawatt-class laser.

The YAL-1 is the result of the Airborne Laser Program, a government initiative designed to counter the Soviet Scud missile threat. Its development resulted from the collaboration of several companies and a test flight on a retired Air India 747-200. In January 2010, the aircraft was used for testing. The YAL-1 was used to intercept and destroy two test missiles. However, the program was halted in December 2011 due to budget cuts.