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About 100 members of the 174th Fighter Wing, part of the New York Air National Guard, are deployed to Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, to patrol the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, as part of the ongoing Operation Southern Watch. This is the unit’s second deployment there, its first having been in March 2001. (Ramirez and Wasilewski 9/11/2001; Wasilewski 9/12/2001; US Congress 3/1/2005; 174th Fighter Wing 12/9/2005) The 174th FW is located at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, five miles north of Syracuse, in Central New York State. It is currently equipped with 17 F-16 fighters. These are kept in a six-bay shelter where they are, reportedly, “ready to fly in any weather, at a moment’s notice.” (Airman 1/2001; Wasilewski 9/25/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/26/2005) However, Hancock Field is not one of NORAD’s two “alert” sites in the northeast US. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) The unit has 350 full-time staff and 650 part-timers, who work one weekend each month plus two full weeks a year. (Wasilewski 9/25/2001; Ramirez 10/24/2001) The 100 members of the unit who go to Saudi Arabia are due to arrive back at Hancock Field at around 3 p.m. on 9/11, but as a consequence of the day’s events are diverted to Canada. (Wasilewski 9/14/2001) They will eventually arrive back at the base on September 14. (Wasilewski 9/15/2001) In the months after 9/11, 174th FW fighters are involved in flying combat air patrols over New York City. (Ramirez 12/8/2001; New York State 3/26/2003)
Shortly after the second World Trade Center crash, calls from fighter units begin “pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’” From Syracuse, New York, a commander of the 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard calls and tells Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS): “Give me 10 [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers [Amraams].” Marr replies, “I want it all.” (Scott 6/3/2002; Carey 9/12/2006) Reportedly, Marr says: “Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack.” (Seely 1/25/2002) Canadian Major General Rick Findley, based in Colorado and in charge of NORAD on this day, reportedly has his staff immediately order as many fighters in the air as possible. (Kampouris 9/11/2002) However, according to another account, NEADS does not accept the offers until about an hour later. The Toledo Blade will report, “By 10:01 a.m., the command center began calling several bases across the country for help.” (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001) The 9/11 Commission will conclude that an order for other bases to prepare fighters to scramble is not given until 9:49 a.m. In fact, it appears the first fighters from other bases to take off are those from Syracuse at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is over an hour and a half after Syracuse’s initial offer to help, and not long after a general ban on all flights, including military ones, is lifted at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). These are apparently the fourth set of fighters scrambled from the ground. Previously, three fighters from Langley Air Force Base, two from Otis Air National Guard Base, and two from Toledo, Ohio, were scrambled at 10:01 a.m. (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001), but did not launch until 15 minutes later. (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001)
Someone from the 174th Fighter Wing, which is based at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and speaks with Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander there. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) Earlier on, shortly after seeing the second plane hitting the World Trade Center at 9:03, a commander of the 174th Fighter Wing called NEADS to offer fighter jets to help (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They’d said: “Give me ten [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers.” (Scott 6/3/2002; Carey 9/12/2006) Yet, now, more than an hour after the second attack, these fighters have still not been launched. Syracuse tells Nasypany, “I’ve got guys that’ll be launching in about 15 minutes.” Despite the earlier promise to have heat-seekers and slammers on the planes, Syracuse says: “We’ve got hot guns. That’s all I’ve got.” Nasypany says: “I’ve got another possible aircraft with a bomb on board. It’s in Pennsylvania, York, approximate area.” He adds that there is “another one, that’s possibly at Cleveland area.” These aircraft, he says, are United Airlines Flight 93 and Delta ‘89, respectively. (Although Flight 93 has already crashed, NEADS apparently does not learn of this until 10:15 (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001).) NEADS was alerted to Delta Flight 1989 at 9:41, and mistakenly suspects it has been hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Syracuse says: “I’ve got two jets right now. Do you need more than two?” After NEADS requests another two, Syracuse replies, “Get four set up, yep.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, the first fighters to launch from Hancock Field are two F-16s that take off at 10:42 a.m. A further three take off at about 1:30 p.m., and two more launch around 3:55 p.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Wasilewski 9/12/2001)
Two F-16 fighters take off from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, near Syracuse, NY. The fighters belong to the 174th Fighter Wing, a unit of the New York Air National Guard. A commander from Syracuse had called NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) offering to help earlier in the morning (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although at that time they’d promised: “Give me 30 minutes and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers,” the fighters now launching have bullets but no missiles. (Wasilewski 9/12/2001; Scott 6/3/2002; Kirst 10/18/2002) The Hancock pilots are ordered to “Identify all aircraft… Intercept them. Tell them to land. ‘Engage’ them if they [don’t].” (Wasilewski 9/25/2001) Also at some time this morning, following the attacks, 174th FW officials form a command center to monitor the situation across the US. (Ramirez and Wasilewski 9/11/2001; Wasilewski 9/12/2001) A hundred of the 174th FW’s staff have spent the last month deployed to Saudi Arabia and are due back this afternoon. However, they are diverted to Canada and arrive back at the base later in the week (see Mid-August-September 11, 2001).
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