U.S. Triples Scanners That See Under Fliers' Clothes

July 15 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will triple the number of devices at airports that can detect bombs under airline passengers' clothing.

The purchase of 80 so-called Passenger Imager machines will bring the total in use next year to 120 at 21 airports, agency spokesman Christopher White said today.

The imagers are produced by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., OSI Systems Inc.'s Rapiscan unit and American Science & Engineering Inc. The TSA hasn't yet decided which vendors it will use or how much it will spend, White said in an interview.

Depending on the model, the devices rely on X-rays to show an outline of travelers' bodies or electromagnetic waves to create an image that looks like a fuzzy photo negative. They are now used as a substitute for being scanned by TSA screeners with handheld detectors.

In addition to the passenger-imaging equipment, TSA will buy 300 ``advanced technology'' X-ray scanners to check carry-on bags, bringing the total to 900 in 2009, White said. Rapiscan and Smiths Group Plc make the machines; TSA hasn't settled on vendors or spending, White said.

The TSA has been looking for ways to keep passengers from slipping plastic explosives and other weapons past checkpoint scanners originally designed to catch metal objects such as guns and knives.

The Arlington, Virginia-based agency began testing American Science's imager in Phoenix in February 2007. A company executive said in an interview then that one of its machines cost about $100,000.

A $2.3 million contract expanded the tests in July 2007 and called for leasing as many as five of the machines for six months from each of the three manufacturers, L-3, Rapiscan and American Science.

Locations for the new machines include Chicago's O'Hare, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson and New York's LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, as well as airports in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Miami and Las Vegas.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Hughes in Washington at [email protected]

Last Updated: July 15, 2008 12:58 EDT

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