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The "Failure" of the Air Defense System

The 9/11/01 attack unfolded in the skies over the northeastern United States between 8:15 and 10:06 AM, as each of the four commandeered jetliners flew at least 300 miles before reaching its target or crashing. This region contains numerous military bases, housing Air Force and Air National Guard fighter wings staffed by pilots prepared to scramble.

The procedure for intercepting unresponsive aircraft has been routine in U.S. domestic airspace, even since the end of the Cold War. According to an Associated Press story, fighters were scrambled 67 times between September, 2000 and June, 2001. 1   Scrambling, or getting fighters in the air, is the first step in carrying out an interception, which consists of catching up with and examining the errant aircraft.

The number and distribution of bases with available interceptors, combined with short scramble times and high speeds of the jets, virtually guarantees that a jetliner flying anywhere in the northeast U.S. could be intercepted within 20 minutes.

Fighter pilots are trained to scramble in under five minutes. They waste no time getting from the barracks to their jets, and are ready for takeoff in a matter of seconds. It's only 10 seconds from power-up to takeoff, and twenty seconds to reach airliner cruising altitude. An F-15 can travel the distance between New York City and Washington D.C. in under eight minutes.

A Stand-Down Order?

Many investigators of the 9/11/01 attack insist there must have been a stand-down order, since the off-course jetliners could easily have been intercepted, given the demonstrated capabilities of the air defense network. The absence of publicized reports of recipients of stand-down orders casts doubt on the claims of R. Anderson:

e x c e r p t
title: Air Defenses Stood Down On 911 After ATC Alerts Given
authors: R. Anderson
It is a FACT that Air National Guard and Air Force air defense units of the United States WERE PROHIBITED from carrying out their STANDARD INTERCEPT PROCEDURES as detailed above on the morning of 9.11; AFTER they had received the alerts from ATC and FAA.

Absolutely NO executive-level input of ANY KIND is required for standard intercepts to be scrambled.

Why couldn't the stand-down orders have come BEFORE September 11th? The orders in effect on 9/11/01 apparently require approval by the Secretary of Defense for any military response to hijacked airliners involving the possible use of lethal force.


1. Military Now Notified Immediately of Unusual Air Traffic Events, AP, 8/12/02 [cached]

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