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View Full Version : Attention Armchair Generals. A Proposal To Protect Targets From 9/11 Type Attacks


Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
01-15-2004, 09:02 AM
Use Barrage Balloons.

A reference--

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/...89/hillson.html

An airliner is not a fighter plane. If a terrorist is going to ram a nuclear plant, a non-skyscraper, etc., he or they must use a relatively flat angle of approach, or at best a shallow dive. You couldn't steer one of those huge things well enough to hit the target otherwise.

Barrage Balloons, tethered by steel cables, prevented low-flying aircraft from entering certain areas during WW1 & WW2.

Some models were specially filled with hydrogen, & fitted with small incendiary devices. An impact with the balloon or cable would set off the incendiary, thus detonating the hydrogen, & blasting the aircraft out of the sky with a pretty good explosion!


In all events, I would assume collision with one of the steel cables would take a wing right off an airliner.

Modern materials like mylar, synthetic rubber & silicon compounds could be used to build a balloon that could stay up for months with no new gasses added!

Why aren't we defending our high-risk targets with these easy-to-build gadgets? :confused:

El_Kabong
01-15-2004, 09:26 AM
Why aren't we defending our high-risk targets with these easy-to-build gadgets?

My guess is that it would be nevertheless quite expensive, and as we know, we desperately need to spend our billions on things like promoting heterosexual marriage :D.

Seriously, though, I think it's a matter of too many potential targets and, thus, the need for huge numbers of balloons and their attendant maintenance, cheap as they may be individually. To provide effective protection from an aircraft travelling at about 400 MPH, you'd need your line of balloons set up a considerable distance from the target, maybe as much as a half a mile away; this would mean a line (or maybe multiple lines) of cable several miles in circumferance around the target and therefore you'd need a lot of balloons per target.

Lastly, of all the millions of commercial and private flights in the US since WWII, there have been a total of four successful airplane-missile attacks on structures that I know of (plus one accidental strike, back in '47 or '48). Three of these all occurred on the same day, in the same operation. So far, they're just not that common an event, even if they are devastating when they do happen. Better to concentrate available funds on preventing the hijacking of planes in the first place, IMO

flonks
01-15-2004, 09:34 AM
Perhaps around nuclear power plants. But a ring of baloons around each sky scraper???? That would quickly change the appearance of our cities, and not to the better...

don't ask
01-15-2004, 09:55 AM
My plan from many years ago was the capacity to dispense some gas that knocked out everyone in the passenger compartment. The flight deck crew would have oxygen and just land at the nearest airport. I assume that ther would be some substance available - I have been knocked out by various drugs.

Patty O'Furniture
01-15-2004, 10:27 AM
To reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness, think of the way the police toss the spike strip out into the road in front of a run-away car.

Outfit a few dozen hummers with the steel cable/balloon device. As soon as air traffic control sees a plane off course and headed for a likely target, the hummers can be dispatched and form a defense between the plane and the target. Imagine a dozen humvees each 100 feet apart, making a 1200 foot wide (5-6 city blocks in DC) defensive line. Then release their baloons creating a wall of steel cables that would rip the wings off the plane.

Of course this has to be very well coordinated because there is probably less than 20 minutes between identification of the threat and the time it hits its target.

hroeder
01-15-2004, 12:33 PM
A plane can be shot down. We probably shot down the plane over Pennsylvania, despite the heroic phone calls, etc. They made a nice story.

The big question is when and where you shoot it down. Which is more dangerous? A single plane hitting a building? Or random fire and parts raining down over a wide area of city?

Fear Itself
01-15-2004, 12:33 PM
My plan from many years ago was the capacity to dispense some gas that knocked out everyone in the passenger compartment. The flight deck crew would have oxygen and just land at the nearest airport. I assume that ther would be some substance available - I have been knocked out by various drugs.No such gas exists that could knock out a plane-load of passengers without killing some of them. Anasthesia is a very delicate balance that can easily turn deadly if not closely monitored by a professional, as it did when Russian commandos used it against terrorists and their captives. (http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/10/30/moscow.gas/)

robby
01-15-2004, 12:55 PM
My plan from many years ago was the capacity to dispense some gas that knocked out everyone in the passenger compartment. The flight deck crew would have oxygen and just land at the nearest airport. I assume that ther would be some substance available - I have been knocked out by various drugs.

The Russians tried this with the Moscow theater hostage crisis (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2002-10-26-russia-hostages_x.htm). They ended up killing more than one hundred hostages (but rescued hundreds more). The problem is getting the dosage correct for different people. A concentration of gas sufficient to knock out a large man may kill a smaller woman or a child.

When you are knocked out during surgery, there is an anesthesiologist who manages your vital functions, including heart rate/rhythm, blood pressure, breathing, etc.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
01-15-2004, 01:06 PM
To reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness, think of the way the police toss the spike strip out into the road in front of a run-away car.

Outfit a few dozen hummers with the steel cable/balloon device. As soon as air traffic control sees a plane off course and headed for a likely target, the hummers can be dispatched and form a defense between the plane and the target. Imagine a dozen humvees each 100 feet apart, making a 1200 foot wide (5-6 city blocks in DC) defensive line. Then release their baloons creating a wall of steel cables that would rip the wings off the plane.

Of course this has to be very well coordinated because there is probably less than 20 minutes between identification of the threat and the time it hits its target.

This makes my head hurt. :smack:

If a huge airplane hits one of these rigs you propose, the car would be yanked up into the air!

Also, Barrage Balloons are supposed to be big--I think the Hummer would be lifted into the air & fly away!

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
01-15-2004, 01:15 PM
A plane can be shot down. We probably shot down the plane over Pennsylvania, despite the heroic phone calls, etc. They made a nice story.

The big question is when and where you shoot it down. Which is more dangerous? A single plane hitting a building? Or random fire and parts raining down over a wide area of city?



I'm not proposing we abandon intercept--this is intended to suppliment that.
What makes you think every air-to-air attack is automatically successful?
What will happen to the fragments of the plane when you shoot it down? Won't they go all over the city too?
If a missile fails to hit the target airliner, what will it hit?
I think a plane hitting an oil refinery, or a nuclear plant, or a chemical plant, would be a lot worse than "parts all over".

toadspittle
01-15-2004, 01:34 PM
http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj89/hillson.html

(that's the working ref. link for the OP)

I think this is a great idea. Park them around the nuke plants, sell the advertising rights to defray Dept. of Homeland Security costs. Not a silver bullet, but then there is no such single solution to any problem this complicated.

Patty O'Furniture
01-15-2004, 02:28 PM
If a huge airplane hits one of these rigs you propose, the car would be yanked up into the air!

*shrug*

So? Then we'll have the wing of a 747 snagging a steel cable with a 6 ton weight at the bottom acting like a boat anchor. Just make sure the humvee driver gets out first. At least my plan calls for a mobil defense unit instead of building a permanent one around every possible target. Stopping a plane in mid-flight is going to be messy, any way you look at it.

Maybe that's why I'm only an armchair general instead of a real one :)

Rashak Mani
01-15-2004, 02:47 PM
The idea would be cheap and good if your in a state of War as was the UK... and the idea was to stop low level bombers... not suicide pilots. That might reduce effectiveness.

They didn't have choppers back then or executives jets... so I warrant you will catch more of these small planes than jumbos with terrorists. That makes it unfeasible. A 747 is very big... if it can knock a WTC tower... these baloons won't do much. Plus other arguments presented.

GorillaMan
01-15-2004, 05:12 PM
Nuclear plants on the edge of a large stretch of water (as many Pressurised Water Reactors are) would require balloons moored offshore....making the logistics of this idea even more problematic.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
01-15-2004, 05:41 PM
The idea would be cheap and good if your in a state of War as was the UK... and the idea was to stop low level bombers... not suicide pilots. That might reduce effectiveness.

They didn't have choppers back then or executives jets... so I warrant you will catch more of these small planes than jumbos with terrorists. That makes it unfeasible. A 747 is very big... if it can knock a WTC tower... these baloons won't do much. Plus other arguments presented.
You forget the sheer speed we're talking about. It'll slice that wing like butter.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
01-15-2004, 05:43 PM
Nuclear plants on the edge of a large stretch of water (as many Pressurised Water Reactors are) would require balloons moored offshore....making the logistics of this idea even more problematic.

Oh? Why?

Concrete weights sink just fine, an extra 100 feet of cable, & a buoy attached.

No prob.

GorillaMan
01-15-2004, 05:46 PM
Oh? Why?

Concrete weights sink just fine, an extra 100 feet of cable, & a buoy attached.

No prob.


Winching them down to check on their condition? Reinflating them periodically (which will be necessary for any balloon)?

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
01-15-2004, 05:57 PM
Winching them down to check on their condition? Reinflating them periodically (which will be necessary for any balloon)?

Dude, this was never a problem in WW2.
:D

Just mount the equipment on a Duece &1/2, for the land balloons, & roll the truck onto a barge for the waterborns.

GorillaMan
01-15-2004, 06:04 PM
Dude, this was never a problem in WW2.
:D

Just mount the equipment on a Duece &1/2, for the land balloons, & roll the truck onto a barge for the waterborns.

The number of balloons which would be necessary is way beyond anything used in WW2.

Broomstick
01-22-2004, 09:19 AM
An airliner is not a fighter plane. If a terrorist is going to ram a nuclear plant, a non-skyscraper, etc., he or they must use a relatively flat angle of approach, or at best a shallow dive. You couldn't steer one of those huge things well enough to hit the target otherwise.Hmm.. granted, I don't fly big airplanes, but, assuming the Bad Guy is not intending to survive the attack anyway, I fail to see why you couldn't do a last-second dive with a 7x7. An airliner is not designed to withstand the g-forces fighters are, but if you're not intending to use a pull-out manuver I'm not sure you'd have to worry about heavy g's. You might have to consider the possibility of break-up in the speed range of Mach 1 - things can get very rough in that transition - but even if airliners can't reach Mach 1 and higher in level flight they certainly can achieve trans-sonic speeds with a little gravity assistance, have done so, and have survived. (Kind of rough on the airplane, though...)

As for steering precision - I don't care what the size of the airplane is, you don't turn on a dime at 500 knots. If you can hit the side of of a building with a 757 using eyeballs alone for guidance (and you can, as has been demonstrated) that's good enough for most targets.

In all events, I would assume collision with one of the steel cables would take a wing right off an airliner.Yep, that would be my guess, too.

Why aren't we defending our high-risk targets with these easy-to-build gadgets?Hmm... we can't afford to protect every potential target... but this could be useful at least in some circumstaces... I dunno, maybe it's just not as much fun as strip-searching granny and fingerprinting everyone.

Seriously, though, I think it's a matter of too many potential targets and, thus, the need for huge numbers of balloons and their attendant maintenance, cheap as they may be individually. To provide effective protection from an aircraft travelling at about 400 MPH, you'd need your line of balloons set up a considerable distance from the target, maybe as much as a half a mile away; this would mean a line (or maybe multiple lines) of cable several miles in circumferance around the target and therefore you'd need a lot of balloons per target.At 400 mph, I think a 1/2 mile would be insufficient - even if you shredded an airliner, a significant portion of the wreckage could still travel forward, impact the target, and cause massive damage. Plus, you'll have jet fuel spraying everywhere, it will probably ignite, then you have the makings of a fuel-air bomb. Which is a Bad Thing.

So, you want the balloons far enough out to stop the airplane, and spaced/located so they won't cause an equal or greater hazard in their results.

Lastly, of all the millions of commercial and private flights in the US since WWII, there have been a total of four successful airplane-missile attacks on structures that I know of (plus one accidental strike, back in '47 or '48). Three of these all occurred on the same day, in the same operation. So far, they're just not that common an event, even if they are devastating when they do happen.Actually, the White House got hit with a C172 during the 80's. Airplane and pilot destroyed. Minimal damage to White House. And there was that building in Florida that got zapped by another C172. Busted windows and a messed up office vs. an airplane in pieces and a dead pilot. Which is why the pilots keep saying a C172 isn't much of a threat to anyone.

I don't want to minimize the seriousness of folks slamming even small planes into buildings, but it's really the biggest planes that pose the biggest threats.

Perhaps around nuclear power plants. But a ring of baloons around each sky scraper???? That would quickly change the appearance of our cities, and not to the better...I dunno, I've seen some pretty butt-ugly skyscrapers, it might be an improvement in some cases ;)

I'm not going to comment on the knock-out gas suggestions, as that's already been covered.

Of course this has to be very well coordinated because there is probably less than 20 minutes between identification of the threat and the time it hits its target.There's also the problem of trying to catch up to an airliner. Although a fighter plane is faster in an absolute sense, it has frequently been the case with intercepts post 9/11 that fighter jets are not conviently located to where the problem is. It can work out that you need 15 minutes to get the get off the ground (and that's when you're already on alert and ready to go), then 15-30 minutes to catch up with the problem aircraft, by which time problem aircraft may have gone a further 200-250 miles... the interceptor will overtake the Boeing or Airbus... eventually... but it won't happen as quickly as most people think it will.

A plane can be shot down. We probably shot down the plane over Pennsylvania, despite the heroic phone calls, etc. No, we didn't. This has been discussed ad naseum on these boards. Flight 93 was not shot down, it crashed. Exactly why it crashed is debatable, but it was not fired upon by anyone. In fact, the two military craft sent after it were in fact unarmed and arrived significantly after the crash, having to come all the way from Ohio to make the intercept. They only means they had of bringing it down was ramming it, which they did not do.

The big question is when and where you shoot it down. Which is more dangerous? A single plane hitting a building? Or random fire and parts raining down over a wide area of city?That's a really important question. The WTC was designed to withstand a massive, massive impact (and, in fact, it did. Twice). What brought those buildings down was fire. Now, which is worse - hitting a building that can soak up the impact and remain standing long enough for most inhabitants to escape, or having large pieces of flamming wreckage rain down over a wide area, hitting smaller buildings not designed for major impact (possibly collapsing them immediately, with deadly result) and setting widespread fires (which will cause further destruction)?

Personally, I hope this remains strictly a theorectical question. But it would be interesting to discuss with, say, an engineer who actually has some ability to guess how this would play out.

If a huge airplane hits one of these rigs you propose, the car would be yanked up into the air!

Also, Barrage Balloons are supposed to be big--I think the Hummer would be lifted into the air & fly away!Hmmm.... not sure about that. I think you could weight down/anchor a hummer sufficiently so that it wouldn't wander off in a breeze - I mean, they anchor blimps and zepplins and they're much larger that what we're talking about. When/if an airplane impacts the cable yeah, the hummer/whatever will probably get yanked some distance, but the majority of the damage will be to the aircraft.

They didn't have choppers back then or executives jets... so I warrant you will catch more of these small planes than jumbos with terrorists. That makes it unfeasible. A 747 is very big... if it can knock a WTC tower... these baloons won't do much. Plus other arguments presented.Except that's not what's happened so far (perhaps for reasons we are not aware of). The 9/11 hijackers certainly had access to smaller airplanes - a couple held commercial licenses, they were certainly known to rent and travel in smaller airplanes... yet they went through the trouble of hijacking a jumbo to do the deed.

Partly, it's as I mentioned before - it's the biggest airplanes that pose the biggest threats. Most of the fleet of aircraft in the United States are 6 seats or less - they just aren't big enough to cause that much damage. Even if hypothetically loaded with explosives, they still aren't a damaging as, say, your average panel van, which can carry far more in payload and is less conspicuous. Yes, the little planes can cause damage and kill people - but they don't knock down big buildings.

So it's big planes you have to worry about. And let me assure you, if a jumbo jet hits a cable suspended in it's path it WILL suffer severe damage. There are ample examples in the accident database of jumbos crashing after merely clipping the corner of a building, or a sign, or a tower, or a cable used to stabilize a tower. Airplanes are NOT designed to withstand impacts of any sort. A cable system such as proposed would certainly be able to bring down any size of aircraft.

Also, the containment buildings of nuclear reactors (at least in the US) are designed to withstand impact by large jets. Not only were they designed by the same building theories that went into the WTC (which, as pointed out, did withstand the impacts of jets even heavier than the 707 used in the hypothetical worst-case when it was designed), but the Feds actually did some real crash-testing of the designs. I am reasonably confident that impacting a nuke plant with a jumbo jet, although not a pleasent occurance, will not destroy the reactor or spread radioactivity in lethal amounts downwind.

I worry more about chemical plants, oil refineries, and the like, which are not nearly as well protected from aerial attack. It would make far more sense to beef up security around those potential targets, in my opinion.