Counter-Terrorism: September 28, 2004
NORADs top general has said work is underway to calculate the damage a typical airliner would cause if shot down over a populated area. Modeling is taking place to figure out how a large-bodied aircraft might come apart when hit by different types of missiles and the what kind of damage would be incurred from falling wreckage. NORAD has decided not to shoot down a civilian aircraft until it is nose down and they think it is going to attack. Apparently, NORAD has also thought through the aftermath of a downing, an action that would almost certainly ruin the lives and careers of decision-makers and pilots, along with endless second-guessing, investigations, and lawsuits.
If there is another 911-style incident, NORAD feels there will be efforts to equip airliners with devices to prevent a takeover. Crews could enter the cockpit only with thumb or retinal scan, with an emergency button in the cockpit to trigger an autopilot landing if the cockpit door is breeched. Alternatively, taking control of an aircraft from the ground could be an option. However, current NORAD assessments put a large truck bomb as the most serious and likely threat to homeland security.
NORAD is also discussing the expansion of its responsibilities beyond air and space to add land and maritime coverage as a part of drafting a new U.S.-Canada defense agreement to be signed in 2006. Seaborne threats of concern include a ship coming into a port loaded with high explosives or weapons of mass destruction, a stand-off unmanned aerial vehicle attack, or a cruise missile attack. In the future, NORAD would like to expand the alliance to include Mexico. Doug Mohney