Just watched the event on the surface-to-air missile (MANPAD) threat at Heritage. Good background articles on the current politics of the issue are here and here. Northrop and BAE want onboard systems, and have had TSA-funded pilot projects in the past year; Raytheon has developed a ground-based prototype, and wants to get in on future pilot project funding; the Air Transport Association (representing the airlines) is walking the fine line of being concerned about the programs while not wanting to appear cavalier about the threat. Lots of numbers being thrown around, spanning the range of $109 billion dollars all the way down to 0.003 cents.
My sense: this is a real threat, but given budget realities, we’re likely to stay in “pilot project and demonstration” mode for the foreseeable future. If a commercial airplane is brought down from a MANPAD attack, however, all bets are off, and we could see a repeat of TSA’s race to fulfill congressional mandates in 2002.