A good friend of mine works in the 'business' of air defense for the USA and has these thoughts.
A couple things on that from an "insiders" perspective.
1. Since the "fall" of the Soviet Union the number of combat alert aircraft has been reduced to nearly none. There just isn't the threat from other countrys. The Chinese do not have the air re-fueling capability to launch a raid on North America and then they would be attacking the WEST coast.
2. It takes some time to reconfigure an aircraft from "training configuration" to " air combat configuration". It's not as easy as swaping out the inerts for war shots. Software has to be changed, safetys have to be reconfigured or dis-abled, it takes several hours per aircraft.
3. Norad was never envisioned to defend the country from a threat that originated within the contental U.S. The use of hijacked passenger aircraft for bombs was just never considered as anything more than a novlists story ending. Norads radars look out searching for INcoming bombers and missles. They are not looking for commercial air traffic on established transit routes. That is the job of the FAA's air traffic control system, not the military.
4. How long has it been since the last domestic hijacking? I'd hazzard a guess most of the troops on duty that day were still in kindergarden when D.B. Cooper hijacked that 727. Domestic hijackings have been so rare that there was no provision or procedure in the manuals. Improvisation is as much as could be expected under the circumstance.
5. Those F-15's at Otis were most likly the only "alert" (armed, combat ready fighters) in the whole lower 48 at the time. Now with that they were probably on 20 minute alert. A 20 minute alert means that it's going to be 20 minutes from the call to wheels up flying. After wheels up then it's ? time to intercept. At full burner it would have taken another 15 minutes to New York City to intercept what target? Without AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) to vector them to a target they would have been guessing at which airplane to shoot at. The nearest AWACS aircraft was in Oklahoma that morning and it takes several hours for something in an old 707 airframe to get that far. Remember the NORAD radar in Maine looks north east and is fixed, you can't move it to look anywhere else, This is an antenna the size of a LARGE building, in fact it is a large building. This stuff was built in the fifties through the seventies to guard against an attack by the SOVIET UNION not United Airlines.
Oh yes with out a tanker in the air our intreped fighter pilots would have about ten minutes loiter over New York after running down on full burner. Then they would be wheels down at Kennedy looking for a fuel bouser. Washington D.C.? Your on your own, an F-15 only has a limited range at high mach numbers.
Then again there are only four birds on alert to begin with and those in upper New York state. They get the order to launch two at 8:37 and the first tower is hit at 8:51. Twenty minutes to wheels up on the fighters you do the math.
I've known this guy a long time, and would take his experience over the conspiracy clowns bullshit conjecture any day.
Last edited by Icemanii; August 8th, 2006 at 08:34 AM.