Preemptive shoot-down: Another subject to take position.

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by ClaireTalon, Mar 28, 2006.

  1. ClaireTalon

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    This subject has been in the news in mid-february, I remember having read a Washington Post article on it, and that already the first outlines of such a law have caused high waves in international politics and aviation business.

    I have followed many discussions, have followed both sides of the controverse, and despite the fact that I am no expert of other country's constitutions, I find the scenario of remaining unprepared for further attacks of hijacked airliners against public targets horrifying.

    The proponents often argue that it is weighing up a death toll of 200 or 300 against possibly thousands of deads as the result of a sucessful attack, and therefor ethically justifiable, whereas the opposition against this law argues that weighing up lifes against each other, and sacrifcing the lower number is a cold atrocity against humanity. The other argument is that engaging a hijacked civil airliner is an offense against international law and the German constitution, which strictly rules out the deployment of military forces unless the country is under attack. While I can understand that from an ethical point of view, I wonder what these politicians are thinking of as useful protection against this scenario.

    In fact, the discussion reaches back to the days immediately after 9/11. Then it's been the scenario of an airliner being flown into a nuclear power plant, maybe the most dramatic of all cases, and the option of stationing Air Defense units of missile launchers and artillery at threatened objects to engage possible hijacked airliners, which enter a prohibited area and don't react to radio calls any longer. Of course, this could include the possibility of engaging an airliner which enters the prohibited area due to navigational error and is coping with a failure of their radios, which represents a very rare probability, but a probability nonetheless.

    The scenario has expanded meanwhile, after a mentally disturbed pilot threatened to crash his motor glider into the European Central Bank building in Frankfurt, and it has come to the attention of aviation agencies and the department of transport that several stadiums for the soccer world cup are sited in the near of airports, which would mean a minimal timespan between detection of the threat and commencing countermeasures; stationing fighter planes and air defense equipment would be made necessary to face this threat.

    Especially after considering the limited options of defense measures against an attack as described above, my position would be in favor of such a law. I can understand very well how someone can condemn this procedure from an ethical point of view, but after a look at the possible effects, I think it is a justifiable means of defense.
     
  2. D_alex8

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    In the German case, this is of course a very specific set of constitution laws originally brought in (in 1947/48) to ensure that the excesses of Nazi expansionism should not recur, of course.

    It's also worth remembering that we've had a new government here since the end of last year, and while Merkel is nominally the Chancellor, she only achieved and maintains this position through a succession of compromises - usually bowing to certain "letter-of-the-law" solutions that noone can dispute due to their very clinging to the exact words of the law (such as the constitution-based situation above), rather than actually focusing on practicalities.

    So there is a certain general political "German specificity" to the examples you cite, which is worth pointing out.

    *he says, nearing the end of week 5 of a state-wide strike by postal workers, refuse collectors, police and other public services*... which helps to demonstrate how on top of everyday realities the new government is. :rolleyes:
     
  3. steve2727

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    I can't comment on the specific case in Germany, so I'm just talking from a general point of view.

    I don't think for a minute that we can shy away from weighing the amount of lives that could be saved by destroying a civil airliner against those that will be lost, people all over the world in the medical, rescue and other professions have to make decisions concerning which lives can be saved and which cannot every day, it seems to me to be a decision that can't be avoided.

    In a situation where you are certain an aircraft is going to make a kamikaze attack (i.e. the hijackers have the intention and the ability to do this) it seems like a straightfoward, albeit awful decision to make, those aboard the aircraft are doomed in any event.

    I think there are a lot of tough choices concerning what safeguards are put in place, mistakes can be made. There's the kind of situation Claire outlines. It's also far from impossible to imagine a confused situation where a 'traditional hijack' (where the plane will be forced to land followed by a hostage situation) gets mistaken for a kamikaze attack. Not to mention the fact that shooting down an aircraft over certain areas presents massive risks to those on the ground anyway. I think there must come a point where the decision can be made to destroy the aircraft though.
     
  4. Dr Rock

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    it's just another bit of legislative chicanery designed to allow politicians to flunk out of any responsibility whenever anything goes wrong. the real question on this issue is why the fuck it's still possible for an aircraft to be hijacked in the first place. why aren't the cockpit crew sitting behind (or in front of...) an armored bulkhead and packing MP5s? because POLITICIANS ARE LAZY, SHIFTLESS CUNTS who won't do ANYTHING that doesn't directly contribute to their personal influence and/or bank accounts.
     
  5. tallguypns

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    i agree with Doc Roc
     
  6. SpeedoGuy

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    I'm afraid pre-emptive shoot-downs will lead to even more mistakes.

    Look at how Soviet MiGs were mistakenly ordered to shoot down a Korean civilian airliner off course over Siberia back in the 1980s. Not to be outdone, the U.S. mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner full of women and children over the Persian Gulf a few years later. Then the Russians shot down an Israeli airliner over the Black Sea.

    The list goes on...
     
  7. b.c.

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    A government's decision to shoot down an airliner rather than risk say an attack like the one that occurred on the WTC, is a horrible one to have to make, but considering the alternative, understandably necessary.

    But the best point is made by Dr. Rock, who suggests that any TRULY RESPONSIBLE government (ours or another's) would take the necessary steps to safeguard against that possibility in the first place.
     
  8. jeff black

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    Yah, I have to say pass on this idea. The idea that you can shoot down hijacked planes, just incase there is the slightest posibility they may go postal, and re-create 9/11 is nuts.
    What about the people on the plane who may be hostages on their own plane? Does this mean I could hijack Airforce One, claim to be a terrorist, and they would shoot me and the president down?
    I would never do that.:biggrin1:

    Yes, that is a ridiculous and extreme case. I just think that everyone's life matters, especially when there is no proof that the hijackers are considering threats or attempting to re-create 9/11.
    This will get abused. Feel free to argue.
     
  9. D_alex8

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    No, I think this is the crux of the matter, Jeff. Presuming that hijackers are so dumb as to simply repeat the same plane-based modus operandi for their next major attack is to underestimate them considerably.
     
  10. jeff black

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    I agree Alex. If anything, I would go airbourne chemicals, or something to that extent. You can barely get a nail file or a screwdriver on a plane, so what are the chances someone could get a weapon on the plane? I suppose they are covering all the bases which I can understand. There is a million different possible outcomes.:smile:
     
  11. B_Danceswithlamps

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    Hmm. What an interesting topic!

    I think it would a) depend on how many passengers are on the plane, b) how much fuel the plane has, and c) where the plane is headed/where it is going to be crashed into. But then the aspect of, what if it was just a pilot's error, and it isn't being hijacked? Then many people have lost their lives... Hmm.

    One thing is for sure: I'm sure glad as hell I'm not on a plane there! ;D

    Me
     
  12. Dr Rock

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    why not?
     
  13. ClaireTalon

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    There are many factors that have to be considered. Above all, the decision for a kill has to be made before even the kill can endanger third parties, i.e. engaging the airliner over a populated area. To refer to one of the original scenarios, the debris of a motorglider can't do too much damage, but what if it was anything the size of a commercial airliner, and it'd have to be shot down in a point where the trajectory of the debris would take it into an inner city?

    SpeedoGuy, you have referred to some exemplary cases there. I remember vividly the aftermath of the KAL 007, and there also have been a lot of conspiracy theories around. But the mistakes made then, namely that no correct attempt of contacting has been made by the Soviet fighter pilots, or the military ATC, don't have to repeat itself. Before taking the airliner out, the procedure should prescribe attempts of establishing radio or visual contact, and a subsequent follow-me out of the airspace in question, along the old NATO regulations.

    As far as hijacking scenarios go, I remember the case of Ralph Calloway, who planned to crash one of the company's DC-10s into the Memphis central hub of FedEx, 1993 or 1994. His weapons of choice were hammers and a harpoon, and aren't those no longer made of metal? If it wasn't for him losing the surprise effect after he had knocked out the second pilot, nobody would have noticed the hijacking.

    So, Dr. Rock, you're suggesting to arm the flight crew and put them behind a bulletproof cockpit back wall? I won't guarantee for these information, but aren't the plane makers working on a solution for an armor to shield the cockpit from any weapon that could be handled on a plane? And what should be the effect, if you can't take a handgun with you? Whatever the answers may be, arming the flight crew with MP-5's isn't the key. Guns on a plane are a peculiar affair, because the MP-5 most probably wouldn't only shred the attacker, but most probably also take its toll on the airframe, let alone other electrical systems. And armoring all those would explode the weight factors.

    So, I guess the shoot-down by a fighter remains the best of the bad options.
     
  14. Dr Rock

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    if they are, they're not getting anything done very fast...

    well, for a start it enables you to shoot anyone who's waving box-cutters or whatever around. :rolleyes:

    i was speaking figuratively; MP5 was just the gun that popped into my head in mid-type cos it's what most army aviation crews carry. i guess sawn-off shotguns would be the best option on board a commercial plane.
     
  15. ClaireTalon

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    Excuse my laxness, Doc, but my information dates back to early 2002. I haven't researched in-depth on this issue, but I remember cue words like titanium/steel four-bolt doorlocks, doorframes safe against explosive devices, door fillings resistant to mechanical manipulation by fire axes or jackhammers etc. I suppose there has been a solution during the last four years, but I haven't heard about it then.


    You got that wrong. The intended meaning was, what's a bulletproof armored cockpit good for, if handguns are detected before? Unless someone brings the infamous keramics Glock with ebony bullets. It's a good protection, but again, consider the weight it takes.



    I'm sorry, but I'm still no friend of firearms on an airplane, especially one with pressurized cabin. It has to be a slowly travelling bulled, preferably Hydrashock, or common JHP/JSP, so it won't exit the human body with a speed high enough to pierce the cabin walls. Still you have to wonder what happens if your pilot/flight attendant/air marshal misses, and the bullet hits the airframe: It can pierce the interior trim, insulation layers, and the outer skin too, if it's fired close to the wall. It can damage electrical wiring. It can frighten the passengers. Also, what about a group of hijackers overpowering the bearer of the gun?

    The solution to the problem won't be found inside the plane, I'm sorry so.
     
  16. ceg1526

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    Laws like these are a reaction to what has already occurred: the hijackers used box-cutters, so let's outlaw box-cutters. Then, slowly, people see the stupidity: we can now carry on knives with less than 3" blades, and Aunt Martha doesn't have to give up her sewing scissors.

    As to shooting planes out of the sky, I believe we (the US, I'm not speaking of Germany) have that authority. I'm glad that's one life-or-death call I'll never have to make.

    I also think that the events of 9/11 were a one time thing. I think that anyone who raises a box cutter in coach will be dog-piled. The terrorists will (and have) found other ways. Will they succeed? I hope not.

    As for MP-5s and steel-titanium bulkheads, it takes a while to train the pilots (thankfully most were military) to use a gun safely in air (now that's an oxymoron); hopefully the attendants will be trained too. And cockpit security features (reinforced doors, protocols for access, etc.) don't materialize overnight. I've wondered about the usefulness of our employing some type of knock-out gas in the passenger cabin...

    Take care

    Ceg
     
  17. Dr Rock

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    it's a lot harder to cut or smash your way through, which i think would be the primary idea

    i'm happier with the risk of stray rounds causing relatively slight damage than with the risk of pilots being unable to kill hijackers.

    that's why i suggested sawn-offs, preferably with flechette / wire-twist shells. perfectly capable of shredding an unarmored human; not very likely to go through aluminum plate. also, a sawn-off can only hold like 3-4 shells; it's not much use to hijackers who overpower its user if he's already emptied the magazine into their comrades.

    as far as i'm aware, airliners already have materials onboard to effect temporary repairs against small breaches and electrical damage.

    probably not as much as a group of terrorists flying the plane though :p
     
  18. ClaireTalon

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    Okay, accepted. Yet it still would take some time to hack a hole big enough to actually crack the door.


    In this case, you can't judge the effect of the damage by the size of the causing object, in this case, the bullet. Remember all structural parts are already exposed to the forces caused by the difference between static pressure inside and outside. Additional dynamic pressure, caused by the impact of a gun, will have a greater effect. Also, consider the effect it can have when the wrong electrical wires are destroyed, system failures, missing safeties, etc. (Here comes the lovely manual sentence: "Additional system failures may cause inflight deployment...").


    Always have in mind that in an airliner, the walls are never far away. But it'd take a test to check the impact effects here. For now, I can't hold anything of substance against flechette shells, so, consider it a possibility. That, or the HP/SP type bullets.

    I'd not want to repair electrical damage if it occurs anywhere around the fuse boards, for example. Sooo many wires! I had to do so once, and when the wire in question slipped from my fingers and between the others, I was short from performing "percussive maintenance".

    Are we slipping from a larger discussion into a technical banter now?
     
  19. Dr Rock

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    granted, but i can think of few circumstances in which it would cause as much damage as (for example) a group of hijackers slaughtering the crew and crashing the plane into an office block. i mean, once someone attempts to hijack your plane, you already know you're not gonna enjoy your flight - by that point it's about stacking as many of the cards in your favor as you can with the aim of bringing out as many people alive as possible.

    well sure, but i'd be surprised if the modern armed forces don't have something that'd work. there are already low-velocity weapons used by special forces for combat on board warships, for example, where it's important to avoid damaging instruments and power relays.

    well of course nobody WANTS to, but if it was a choice between that and crash-landing ...
     
  20. SpeedoGuy

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    Doubtless the Bush administration believed it had that authority, lawful or not.

    I can remember the weeks immediately after 9/11 when air traffic gradually resumed back to something near normal over the U.S. I work near the Oregon Air National Guard base where pairs of F-15s took off to patrol the skies 24/7. I saw a number of them shadowing incoming airliners.

    My co-workers were all atwitter about how the F-15s were helping keep us safe from terrorists, an observation I found amusing. To wit: F-15s can't do much about terrorists at all. It gradually dawned on me that the F-15s were up there to put a missile into the wing of any incoming airliner that suddenly veered off flight plan. Count on it.
     
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