Making Air, Sea and Land Travel More Secure

Israeli companies provide concepts, solutions and systems that protect the airline industry and transportation against terrorism


Even before 9/11 there was a deep rooted fear of flying and air traffic to and from Israel, which has always been a natural target for terrorists. Consequently, the country's security experts have developed effective concepts and strategies to deal with the situation. The kind of security measures taken by Israel's airline industry and airport authorities greatly minimizes and deters the possibility of any attack, while new systems developed since 9/11 make such an assault even more unlikely.
Israeli companies specializing in total solution packages for the airline industry, from building a concept and strategy through consultation and implementation, include government-owned Israel Military Industries (IMI), which trains professional security staff for El Al Israel National Airlines. Since 9/11 IMI's Academy for Advanced Security and Anti-Terror Training has been inundated with requests for assistance from airlines, airports and government transportation authorities worldwide. IMI offers consultations and training courses either in Israel, or the client's country.
Other Israeli companies that offer advice and implementation of strategies for aviation security include ICTS Global Security, a veteran aviation security consulting firm, which like IMI exports all the techniques used in Israel such as personnel training, x-ray screening and passenger profiling. Sital International Security and Intelligence offers air transport security training, while Shafran provides aviation security packages. Athena, a member of the Merhav Group offers comprehensive air transportation security solutions and has adapted effective turnkey programs and tools to maximize safety and security for travelers including tailor-made products for public areas, transportation centers and cargo processing. Eltel, a subsidiary of the Elul Group, has developed a "smart" computerized training system that helps airport personnel deal swiftly and competently with security risks.
Many of these companies provide services related to the terror threat against marine vessels based on Israel's experience in thwarting terror from the seas. They also provide consultancy on securing buses and trains, here too with extensive experience of combating terror attacks in Israel. In addition to consultancy, Israeli firms provide hardware to protect aircraft and transport. To counter the danger of a plane being shot down by a shoulder launched missile when it is landing or taking off, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has developed Flight Guard. This is a proven civil aviation protection system, which is already installed on El Al aircraft and other planes worldwide. In a strategic cooperation with the US firm Raytheon, a countermeasure dispensing system has been added to produce Safeflight, which also protects the aircraft against infrared missiles.
Elbit Security Systems recently unveiled its positive ID code system, which requires pilots on incoming aircraft to identify themselves. The system was recently installed by Israel's Ministry of Transportation near Ben Gurion International Airport.
Even before 9/11 Israeli air-traffic controllers carefully scrutinized all movements of aircraft in the region. Planes are tracked by transceivers in the pilot's cockpit, which send a digital signal to air traffic controllers. Nice Systems specializes in civil aviation and navigation systems with a range of products that broadcast video signals to ground control centers during the flight. The company also develops and manufactures video recorders installed in airplanes enabling pilots to continually inspect events in the passenger cabin. In fact the aircraft hijacked on September 11th were all fitted with transceivers. The problem was that the air traffic controllers and other security agencies did not take matters seriously when the hijackers turned off the transceivers. In Israel, even before 9/11, the disappearance of a transceiver signal has always resulted in the scrambling of fighter jets to protect the country's skies and high-rise buildings. These transceivers are backed up by conventional radar systems operated by the Israel Air Force.
Ideally, good security will result in terrorists being deterred, or at best prevented from hijacking planes. This can be achieved by the comprehensive screening of passengers and their baggage (to prevent mid-air explosions), and is routine practice on El Al. This security practice was introduced in the aftermath of the hijacking of an El Al plane in 1968. Since then there have been no known attempts to hijack any of the airline's aircraft. An important aspect of passenger screening is passenger profiling, so that security staff can devote more time to those travelers who arouse greater suspicions.
Israeli airport and airlines procedures are stringent. Passengers must reach the airport at least two hours, and sometimes three hours before take off, and are subjected to rigorous checks. Highly trained security staff will carefully scrutinize passports and tickets and using eye contact will ask important personal questions relating to reasons for traveling, how and by whom baggage was packed, whether it was left unattended and if the passenger has accepted any parcels from others to take on the flight.
ICTS has developed special Advance Passenger Screening (APS) systems, which allows prescreening with computerized support.
Another important aspect of homeland security in the aviation sector is securing the airport itself. The airport must be secured by appropriate perimeter fencing, which is integrated with a comprehensive security system including command and control systems, alarms, sensors etc. and the trained manpower to handle any threat. The large numbers of civilian staff working at the airport must be carefully vetted, prior to being hired and monitored on a regular basis. It is especially important to thoroughly scrutinize maintenance, cleaning and catering professionals, who regularly board the aircraft between flights.
Israel's secure skies policy has always called for the pilot's cockpit to be securely locked and protected, while plain clothes armed security guards (air marshals) have also been a permanent feature on El Al passenger flights since the late 60's. This is in contrast to other international airlines, which prior to 9/11 had no air marshals and would often invite passengers and children in for a tour of the pilot's cockpit. New technologies are also alleviating the dangers of air travel. Magal Security Systems has designed an innovative jet lock product to detect and prevent unauthorized movement of airplanes on the ground. A-EYE Advanced Vision Technologies has developed software whose applications include the more efficient operation of x-ray security scanning systems for detecting concealed weapons and explosives. SpaceLogic has developed systems for more efficient and secure baggage handling at airports, while Opgal Optomic Industries has developed infra-red and thermal imaging technology which gives pilots a clearer view of runways at night. Other relevant technologies include IDO Security's MagShoe System, which detects metal inside shoes. Trace- Safe from Israel and Raptor from the US have co-developed a chemical process, called TraceGuard, which can free particles from fabric and luggage for speedy detection and analysis, while BellSecure connects Homeland Security, Interpol data, pictures, voice and video to create a unified database that can be managed worldwide to profile passengers at airports and bus stations.
Israeli companies also lead in biometrics, which has been especially vital in reducing passport and ID fraud. Israelis have patiently endured the inconvenience and cost in time and money that rigorous security procedures demand and as a result hundreds of lives have been saved and countless attacks deterred.