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Profile: Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR)
Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) was a participant or observer in the following events:
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices for dealing with the simulated hijackings of two commercial aircraft by terrorists, as part of its annual training exercise called Vigilant Guardian. Whether the simulated hijackings take place simultaneously or at different times of the day is unclear. [9/11 Commission, 2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 3]
Terrorists Threaten to 'Rain Terror from the Skies' - One of the two exercise scenarios involves the hijacking of a Boeing 747 bound from Tokyo, Japan, to Anchorage, Alaska. According to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission, the scenario involves the “[t]hreat of harm to [the plane’s] passengers and possibly [a] large population within [the] US or Canada.” It includes what is apparently a fictitious Asian terrorist group called “Mum Hykro,” which is threatening to “rain terror from the skies onto a major US city unless the US declares withdrawal from Asian conflict.” During the hijacking scenario, some of the plane’s passengers are killed. The plane’s course is changed to take it to Vancouver, Canada, and then to San Francisco, California. In response to the hijacking, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and FAA headquarters direct military assistance, in the form of “covert shadowing” of the hijacked aircraft. NORAD has to liaise with the appropriate air traffic control centers. Its Alaskan region (ANR) and its Canadian region (CANR) participate in the scenario.
Group Threatens to Blow up Plane - In the other hijacking scenario, 10 members of another fictitious terrorist group, “Lin Po,” seize control of a Boeing 747 bound from Seoul, South Korea, to Anchorage. The hijackers have weapons on board that were smuggled onto the plane in small tote bags by ground crew members prior to takeoff. Gas containers were also smuggled onto the aircraft by baggage handlers before takeoff. Arming devices are attached to these containers, which can be remotely detonated. The terrorist group issues demands and threatens to blow up the plane if these are not met. The CIA and NSA caution that the group has the means and motivation to carry out a chemical and biological attack. The group kills two of the plane’s passengers and threatens to use the gas it has on board in some manner. In response to the simulated hijacking, NORAD directs fighter jets to get in a position to shoot down the hijacked airliner, and orders ANR to intercept and shadow it. In the scenario, the 747 eventually lands in Seattle, Washington. [9/11 Commission, 2004]
Most NORAD Exercises Include Hijack Scenario - Vigilant Guardian is one of four major exercises that NORAD conducts each year. Most of these exercises include a hijack scenario. [USA Today, 4/18/2004] Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission in 2003 that he cannot “remember a time in the last 33 years when NORAD has not run a hijack exercise.” [9/11 Commission, 11/14/2003 ] This year’s Vigilant Guardian will include additional aircraft hijacking scenarios on September 9 and September 10 (see September 9, 2001 and September 10, 2001), and a further simulated plane hijacking is scheduled for the morning of September 11 (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), participates in a video teleconference with other senior NORAD officials and is therefore unavailable when NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tries contacting him for authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11. [Filson, 2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31] Arnold is in the video teleconferencing room at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Teleconference Discussing 'Russian Exercise' - Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force who is in the room with Arnold, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the teleconference is “about the Russian exercise.” [9/11 Commission, 2/2/2004 ] Del Toro is presumably referring to either the Russian Air Force exercise that NORAD is currently monitoring (see September 9, 2001) or the exercise, Vigilant Guardian, that NORAD is currently running, which reportedly includes a simulated war against Russia (see (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; Denver Post, 8/28/2011]
NORAD Officials from US and Canada on Teleconference - It is unclear exactly who else is participating in the teleconference. Arnold will tell the 9/11 Commission that as well as “our folks”—presumably referring to some of his colleagues at CONR—it includes “the NORAD staff.” The “NORAD staff” presumably includes officials from NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Arnold will tell author Leslie Filson that the teleconference includes “the CINC”—presumably meaning General Ralph Eberhart, the commander in chief of NORAD, who is at Peterson Air Force Base—and also officials from the Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) and the Canadian NORAD Region (CANR). [Filson, 2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ]
Arnold Not Alerted to Hijacking - While Arnold is on the teleconference, NEADS calls CONR to alert him to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but no one at CONR interrupts the teleconference to fetch him or pass on to him the urgent message from NEADS. Arnold will only learn of the hijacking after the teleconference ends (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and he will then call NEADS back (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31, 38]
The commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) orders air traffic controllers to redirect a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly suspected of being hijacked, and warns that he will have the aircraft shot down if it refuses to change course. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278]
Korean Jet Indicating Hijacking - Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 heading to New York, and which is currently due to land in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop. Although Flight 85 has not been hijacked, its pilots have given indications that the plane has been hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002] NORAD has been alerted, and Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the ANR commander, has ordered fighter jets to take off and follow the aircraft (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257]
Commander Threatens Shootdown - While the FAA wants Flight 85 to remain on its current course, ANR wants it redirected. Controllers at the FAA’s Anchorage Center repeatedly query the pilots, yet they give no reassurance that their plane has not been hijacked. Therefore, Schwartz decides he has had enough. He orders the Anchorage Center controllers to turn the aircraft, and says that if it refuses to divert and remains on its current course, he will have it shot down. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 278] At some point, presumably around this time, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is contacted and gives his authorization for Flight 85 to be shot down if necessary (see (Shortly After 1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Globe and Mail, 9/12/2002]
Plane Redirected to Remote Airport - Following Schwartz’s order, a controller instructs Flight 85 to head about 100 miles north of Anchorage, fly east, and then turn southeast for Yakutat, a fairly remote airport with a runway long enough to land the 747. As requested, the plane changes course, which shows those on the ground that its pilot is still in control.
NORAD Decides to Land Plane in Canada - However, weather conditions in Yakutat are deteriorating, and it is unclear whether that airport’s navigational aids and on-board maps are adequate to guide the plane over the risky mountainous terrain. Furthermore, FAA controllers discover that Flight 85 has less than an hour’s worth of fuel remaining. ANR personnel brainstorm over what to do, and decide to have the plane land at Whitehorse Airport in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Schwartz contacts the Canadian authorities and they agree to this. [Alaska Legislature. Joint Senate and House Armed Services Committee, 2/5/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] Escorted by the fighter jets, Flight 85 will head to Whitehorse Airport and land there at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278]
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