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FedEx asks the United States for permission to install anti-missile lasers in its cargo planes

Shipping giant FedEx is asking federal regulators for permission to install countermeasures in its cargo planes designed to thwart missile attacks, according to a notice in the Federal Register.

“In recent years, in several incidents overseas, civilian aircraft have been targeted by man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS),” FedEx said in the public notice. “This has led several companies to design and adapt systems like a laser-based missile defense system for installation on civilian aircraft, to protect those aircraft against heat-seeking missiles.”

FedEx adds that it wants to install a missile defense system that “directs infrared laser energy at an incoming missile, with the goal of interrupting the missile’s tracking of aircraft heat.”

The company notes that infrared laser energy can pose a hazard to people on board the aircraft, on the ground, or on board other aircraft, and offers a series of measures to mitigate this hazard. The system should be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

FedEx says it wants to install the system in the Airbus A321-200 aircraft, a model it does not yet fly as part of its fleet of more than 650 aircraft. The company did not respond to requests for comment from NBC News.

Anti-missile systems were installed in US commercial aircraft as early as 2008. Israeli passenger carrier El Al introduced an anti-missile defense system in 2004.

Hundreds of people have been killed in two high-profile missile attacks on planes in recent years – attacks that appear to stem from misidentifications.

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 from Tehran to Kyiv was shot down shortly after takeoff by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which later said it had taken the plane for a cruise missile.

A Malaysia Airlines passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down in 2014 while flying over eastern Ukraine, in what international investigations concluded was a botched operation by Russian-backed separatists.

In 2003, a DHL cargo plane was hit by a missile after taking off from Baghdad, but the crew of three were able to land safely.

Jay Blackman and Courtney Kube contributed.

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