The F-16s That Failed to Protect Washington on 9/11: Was the Langley Jets’ Emergency Response Sabotaged? by Shoestring

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Langley Air Force Base was the second military base that launched fighter jets to defend America in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Three of its F-16s were ordered to take off toward Washington at 9:24 a.m. that morning, but by the time they were airborne, more than 40 minutes had passed since the first attack on the World Trade Center, and almost half an hour since the second.

Furthermore, the pilots were hindered by an extraordinary combination of confusion, communications problems, conflicting orders, breaches of protocol, and other difficulties. Consequently, when the Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m., the jets were further away from it than they’d been when they took off. According to witnesses on the ground, fighters did not arrive over the Pentagon until around 10:40 a.m.–more than an hour too late to protect it from the attack.

A close examination of publicly available accounts raises the possibility that deliberate attempts were made to sabotage the ability of the Langley jets to respond to the 9/11 attacks, thereby paralyzing normal, well-practiced procedures. In this article, I focus on three particular aspects of the jets’ response.

Firstly, I examine the initial order to launch F-16s from Langley AFB. Notably, instead of the usual two jets taking off, a third pilot took off in a spare jet. This left the unit with no supervisor of flying (SOF) to communicate with other agencies and pass on vital information to the pilots. Secondly, I question why, instead of heading toward Washington as instructed, the jets initially flew out over the ocean, where they were of no use in defending against further attacks. I look at the mysterious role played by the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, which was handling the jets while they were over the ocean. Could this facility have been misdirecting them? Thirdly, I look at the breakdown of communications between the military and the Langley jets, and the confusion experienced by the pilots that this contributed to.

Taken together, the sheer number of things that went wrong appears highly suspicious, and makes clear the urgent need for a new and unrestrained investigation of 9/11, to find out what was really going on that day and who was behind the attacks.

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