Beyond the commitment to Sharia law in post-Gadhafi Libya, now another unintended consequence is seen in NATO’s intervention on behalf of the rebels.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports Hamas recently smuggled “relatively advanced Russian missiles” looted from Libyan military warehouses into Gaza, upgrading the anti-aircraft capability of the Islamist Palestinian terrorist group:
Israel is worried about the presence of the missiles, both because they curb the [Israeli] air force’s almost unlimited freedom of movement over Gaza today, and because of their possible use against civil aviation in [the southern resort] Eilat.
Shoulder-fired anti-aicraft missiles have been smuggled into Gaza in recent years at Iran’s initiative. But the fall of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime has enabled Hamas to bring in much higher quality missiles – and in much larger quantities.
Rings of smugglers utilized the riots in Libya to break into military storage facilities and steal large quantities of weapons, some of which have relatively advanced capabilities. The weapons were then sold to terrorist organizations, first and foremost to various Palestinian factions. It seems that extremist Islamist organizations in Somalia also bought large quantities of weapons.
The U.S. is deeply worried about these and other arms-on-the-loose. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Libya earlier this month, she announced the allocation of $40 million to help Libya “secure and destroy dangerous stockpiles” of conventional and chemical weapons.
British officials highlight the risk to civilian aircraft. The Guardian reported last month:
British officials say they are concerned in particular about heatseeking man-portable air defence systems (Manpads), such as SA7 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, getting into the wrong hands. Though most military aircraft are now equipped with countermeasures, civilian planes are not. Helicopters remain vulnerable to rocket-propelled grenades, officials said.
The concern about Hamas’ improved anti-aircraft arsenal prompted Israel’s security cabinet last month to discuss equipping all of the nation’s commercial aircraft with a missile protection system. Ynet reports some El Al aircraft were equipped with the system six years ago:
Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia said at the time that the system is similar to the one used in fighter planes, but has been adapted to be used in passenger planes.
“When missiles are fired at a plane, the system discharges flares that divert the missiles mid-flight,” he said.
A new system to protect passenger planes using laser beams has been developed by the Israeli military contractor Elbit. It detects incoming missiles and without shooting them, deflects them with lasers.
Watch this dramatic video on how the system works, replete with actors playing terrorists “firing” at the civilian plane:
A Jerusalem Post reporter recently visited the contractor to learn more about the “C-Music” system, designed for both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The acronym stands for Commercial-Multi Spectral Infrared Countermeasure:
It works by detecting and tracking any shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile launched at the host aircraft. When the missile gets within a certain range, C-Music fires a laser directly at the missile’s seeker, deflecting it from the plane. It has a smaller design turret for helicopters, business and special mission aircraft and a larger self-contained pod with more powerful lasers and multiple detectors commercial airliners, aerial tankers and large business aircraft.
The threat to civilian aircraft is not theoretical. In 2002, an al-Qaeda faction launched two shoulder-fired missiles at an Israeli Arkia Airlines Boeing 757 taking off from Mombasa, Kenya. The missiles missed their target, and no one was injured.
Last month, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called on the administration to equip American wide-body passenger planes with anti-missile technology and said more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by surface-to-air missiles since the 1970s.
“Installing this technology on 500 wide-body planes would protect more than 2 billion passengers over the next 20 years,” she said.
It’s doubtful the price tag will be “Music” to the ears of airlines. Israeli media reports suggest each unit costs about $1.2 million and occupies the space of three passenger seats.