Kudos to Tim McLaughlin of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for Monday's article on the continuing threat to commercial aviation from shouder-fired surface-to-air missiles. As Mr. McLaughlin reminds us, U.S. airlines are literally one missile attack away from a financial meltdown that could result in a $1 trillion hit to the American economy.
Despite that obvious threat, the U.S. government--and the airline industry--haven't committed to spending the billions of dollars needed to retrofit thousands of commercial aircraft and business jets with anti-missile systems. At upwards of one million dollars per airliner, it's a daunting proposition; but, amortized through ticket sales, the cost would add about $3 to a roundtrip ticket between New York and Los Angeles.
As we pointed out months ago, it's a small price to pay for a required measure of protection. One of the experts quoted by Tim McLaughlin compares terrorists to electricty--they take the path of least resistance. Given the ready availability of shoulder-fired SAMs (and the target rich environment offered by western airports), it's just a matter of time before Al Qaida quits tinkering with hair gel bombs, and moves on to something that's much more feasible--and deadly--like a MANPAD attack.