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8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001: Alert Fighters at Otis Air Base Are at a Higher State of Readiness due to the Ongoing Russian Exercise

The fighter jets that are on “alert” at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have more weapons and fuel than normal this morning, in response to a Russian military exercise taking place this week, and consequently their maximum speed is significantly reduced due to the extra weight they are carrying. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004] Otis Air Base keeps two F-15 fighters on alert—armed and fueled, ready for takeoff at any time. [American Defender, 4/1998; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; Bamford, 2004, pp. 10] These fighters usually have one external fuel tank and are armed with just “hot guns”—six-barrel 20-millimeter guns that are capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute. They normally have no missiles. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 5]
Fighters Have Missiles and Extra Fuel - However, NORAD is currently monitoring a Russian Air Force exercise taking place over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans (see September 10, 2001). [BBC, 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Washington Times, 9/11/2001] Its alert fighters at Otis Air Base are consequently at a higher state of readiness than they would normally be at and are configured to respond to the Russian exercise. They have three external fuel tanks instead of one and are armed with six missiles as well as hot guns. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file; Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/24/2011]
Fighters' Maximum Speed Is Reduced - However, the extra load apparently significantly reduces the fighters’ maximum speed. In their prime, the jets could have flown at Mach 2.5 (about 1,900 miles per hour). [Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] But with the increased load, their maximum speed is less than half of this, around Mach 1.1 to Mach 1.2 (about 840 to 920 miles per hour), 9/11 Commission staffers will later be told. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file] The alert fighters at Otis Air Base will be scrambled in response to the hijacking of Flight 11, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Boston Globe, 9/11/2005; Spencer, 2008, pp. 42-43] Whether the reduction of their maximum speed impairs their ability to respond to the hijacking is unclear.
NEADS Commander Decided to Increase the Planes' Load - The decision to load the fighters with missiles and extra fuel was reportedly made by Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). “He has ordered additional fuel and weapons loaded on his alert aircraft, just in case” Russian jets penetrate North American airspace, author Lynn Spencer will write (see September 10, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 5] F-16 fighters that are kept on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, which will be scrambled at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), are also armed with missiles and carrying extra fuel this morning due to the Russian exercise. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Otis Air National Guard Base, Robert Marr

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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