Flight 93 (Shanksville)
Flight 93: The Improbable Truth
by Robb Magley
"That process starts upon the supposition that when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes
The Case for
the Existence of Deployable HPM Weapons
The Case for the C-130 as HPM Platform
The Case for an HPM Weapon Discharge on 9/11 - 10:03 A.M.
Three minutes, four possible coincidences, and one odd lack of evidence, have created a problem with the official story regarding the crash of United Airlines Flight 93.
It begins with the matter reported in the Philadelphia Daily News in September 2002 by William Bunch. Several seismologists, some commissioned by the Department of Defense to investigate the question, agree that Flight 93 struck the earth at 10:06. Yet family members allowed to hear the cockpit voice recording were repeatedly told the tape ended at 10:03, three minutes before impact.
The problem continues: shortly before striking the ground, Flight 93 made a dramatic course change. The doomed airliner turned nearly 90 degrees to the northwest. The turn, according to aircraft tracking records at FlightExplorer.com, occurred at 10:03.
Three minutes before impact.
A third event took place when Flight 93's transponder signal, which had over the course of the hijacking been turned off, and then on again, ceased transmitting. When NBC's Tom Brokaw interviewed air traffic controller Stacey Taylor, she told him she had assumed the worst when the signal stopped that Flight 93 had crashed.
The signal ended, Taylor said, at 10:03. Three minutes before impact.
Shanksville-Stonycreek Elementary school, two miles from Flight 93's impact site, was evacuated after the crash knocked out electrical power to the school. The Mayor of the nearby borough of Indian Lake called the utility company when power to his small town was disrupted by the crash. In the days to follow, photographs of the impact point showed a newly repaired power line stretching over the scene, leading to the reasonable conclusion that the airliner severed the wires as it hit the ground.
The time of the outage, however, remains strangely unverifiable.
Understanding the possible concurrence of these four events requires the understanding that time, when measured by those involved here, is a matter of fine precision. Flight recorders, seismologists, air traffic controllers, and utility companies all depend upon the accuracy of their clocks tremendously, and even use tools such as satellites to keep errors to a minimum. These clocks, if not exactly synchronized, should at most be off by a matter of a few seconds.
Damage assessment is perhaps the most difficult supporting technology of all to develop. Since HPM weapons usually depend on electronic kill or upset, there is no "smoking hole" as an observable. - Bacon/Rinehart, "A Brief Technology Survey of High-Power Microwave Sources", High Power Electromagnetics Department, Sandia National Laboratories, April 2001
The possibility is that United Flight 93 crashed as a result of being attacked by a high-powered microwave weapon, most likely fired from the C-130 aircraft acknowledged by the Department of Defense to be present that morning.
This is an incredible thesis, and requires several points to be addressed in
order to comprehend the idea, much less believe it. First, it must be shown that
such a weapon not only exists, but is operational within U.S. Armed Forces.
Second, it must be shown that evidence exists of an attack by this weapon on
9/11. In this article, I will present explanation in three parts:
1) The Case for the Existence of Deployable High Power Microwave (HPM) Weapons
2) The Case for the C-130 as HPM Platform
3) The Case for an HPM Weapon Discharge on 9/11: Four Events at 10:03 A.M.
The Case for
the Existence of Deployable HPM Weapons
In order to understand how a microwave weapon might have been used on 9/11, some historical context for the technology must be established. The implications of radio frequency (RF) warfare have been understood since the first significant electromagnetic pulse (EMP) was observed in 1962 following a nuclear test blast above Johnston Island in the Pacific. In a test code-named STARFISH PRIME, a 1.5 kiloton nuclear weapon was detonated above the island; 1500 kilometers away in Hawaii, streetlights blinked out, alarms were triggered, and power lines fused as a result of the blast's EMP.
The disruptive effect of EMP on electrical systems was not lost on military planners; but the use of nuclear weapons for the relatively small-scale effect was deemed less than pragmatic. Over time, technology was created which could produce EMP without a nuclear blast, but its effect was difficult to focus. It was also not immediately apparent to Western forces what operational use such a weapon would offer over conventional munitions.
But the Soviet Union recognized the advantages very quickly. Lagging behind the West in electronics, the USSR saw EMP as a critical technology; if they could not compete in the development of smaller and faster electronic weapons, they could exploit their inherent susceptibility to RF. The Soviets began to develop high-power microwaves (HPM), a technology which not only required no nuclear blast, but also could be focused and required a smaller apparatus to generate.
HPM disrupts electrical systems very briefly, for around a few hundred nanoseconds. But in the high-speed world of computer-driven defense technology, this is long enough to reset chips, record faulty data, and effectively neutralize any system dependent upon electrical impulses for its operation.
NATO and former Soviet nations have developed HPM weapons. These weapons are designed to exploit this inadvertent vulnerability to RF power by concentrating as much power as possible into a controlled field. This has proven very effective, and anecdotal data suggest successful combat deployment. - A.E. Pevler, "Security Implications of High-Power Microwave Technology", IEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, 1997
On September 6, 1976, the West saw its most compelling evidence of how seriously the Soviet Union took the concepts of HPM weapons. Lt. Victor Belenko defected from the USSR, landing in Hakodate Airport in northern Japan in his state-of-the-art Soviet fighter, the MiG-25. As NATO scientists began to dissect the aircraft, they discovered its critical communications, target acquisition, and navigation systems were strangely designed with such antiquated parts as vacuum tubes where computer chips should be. Such a system appeared anachronistic until placed in the context of HPM weapons: this design was nearly impervious (or in the words of the trade, "hardened") to an HPM attack.
Pulsers developed at Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute are based upon very fast (nanosecond and picosecond) solid state "on" and "off" switches developed by Prof. Igor Grekhov and Dr. Alexi Kardo-Syssoev. These switches have recently been used to generate 10 nanosecond, 10 KHz pulses... Jammers based upon these switches can be made small enough to fit into a briefcase. A recent version is said to weigh 6.5 kg and to deliver fields of 30 kV per meter at 5 meters. This is comparable to high-altitude EMP (HEMP) field strength. - Dr. I.W. Merritt, Chief, Concepts Identification and Applications Analysis Division, Advanced Technology Directorate, Missile Defense and Space Technology Center, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, "Proliferation and Significance of Radio Frequency Weapons Technology", before the Joint Economic Committee, United States Congress, 25 February 1998
The origins of the U.S.-developed HPM are difficult to trace. The efforts gained support during the Reagan administration, when various directed-energy (DE) concepts were researched in connection with the Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars".
But HPM's trail becomes more apparent by the early 1990's, as the technology begins to mature. As early as 1993, the United States Marine Corps was building such phrases as "...shielding against radio frequency (RF) and High Power Microwave Weapons effects is desired" into its operational requirements documents (ORDs) for assets such as its Technical Control and Analysis Center (TCAC), a hub for Marine signal intelligence and electronic warfare (SIGINT/EW) support for air-ground operations. It must be inferred that by this time, the Department of Defense did not think it unreasonable to defend against HPM weapons, and that such a threat must have existed, or been on the verge of deployment.
Useful documents in following HPM development include DoD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) budget item justification sheets. These are simply non-classified budget documents which indicate, for each funded project, the goals, what was done in the previous fiscal year, what is planned for the following fiscal year, and how much was and will be spent.
Of particular interest to the discussion of HPM is how the mission description and accomplishments have evolved from the quite specific to the very general as the technology improved, and the desire for public knowledge of the program diminished. In FY 1994, for example, the mission includes the phrase:
Technologies are developed that support a wide range of Air Force missions such as space control, command and control warfare, and counter-air warfare.
By FY 2001, the same project (with a new number):
Technologies that support a wide range of Air Force missions such as the potential disruption and degradation of an adversary's electronic infrastructure and military capability are developed.
Specific missions such as counter-air warfare are replaced with the idea of a "potential" disruption of electronics. Of course the new mission statements do not reflect the growth of the technology; careful scrutiny of RDT&E documents from 1994 to 2001 show an increase in funding and technical sophistication, and a decrease in specificity that suggests a program becoming more secretive.
In FY 1994, a new pulse forming network created a 100% efficient ultra-wideband source. A new pyramidal horn antenna created 70 KV per meter at a 10 meter range. Solid-state gallium arsenite switches allowed 10,000 shots, 100 times better than the previous technology. And in FY 1994, a study on the HPM effects on the F-16 aircraft and Stinger missile launch tubes was completed.
In FY 1996, advanced computer modeling which could predict HPM effects on various aircraft was developed, and subsequent shielding technologies to harden military assets to HPM created; specifically, specifications, standards, and maintenance technology for systems including the F-16, Hawk missile, and F-22 Raptor were developed. "Counter-air effectiveness analyses" of HPM weapons were completed, and, most significantly, a contractor was chosen (but not named) to produce a wideband HPM source for aircraft self-protection.
By FY 1998, the documents state the ending of the Advanced Concepts Technology Demonstration, or ACTD, for HPM weaponry. An ACTD is a joint user/developer effort to demonstrate an operational capability that meets a military need; it is designed to accelerate application of mature technologies into the field, usually with the help of an active warfighting unit. Essentially this is the period where soldiers and contractors work out details of technical manuals and operating procedures, a time when a specific piece of equipment is hauled into the field and subjected to whatever hardships the soldiers deem necessary, while the contractor provides tech support and advice as the equipment is integrated into use.
Ended the ACTD. Demonstrated the capability to neutralize specific targets in a real-world environment. Validated logistics, training, and maintenance assumptions applied to the operational use of this specific system. - PE 0603750D8Z, RDT&E Budget Item Justification Sheet
In FY 2000, a single-shot HPM device was field tested for control of enemy air defenses, and components for repetitively-pulsed narrowband HPM (power, sources, and antennae) were developed.
FY 2001 saw the development of frequency-agile HPM sources, as well as increasingly sophisticated computer modeling and the "completed design of subscale breadboard multiple-shot HPM for airborne attack". Obviously HPM was by now considered serious weapons science.
Bits and pieces of information regarding HPM have surfaced in various official military documents, with the clear pattern that the technology is mature and deployable (and thus probably deployed):
LFT&E [Live Fire Test and Evaluation] has supported the development of prototype high-power microwave (HPM) weapons and tests of these devices at DoD open-air ranges since FY97. - FY01 Annual Report, "Vulnerability Assessment to Radio Frequency Threats", The Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E)
Several high power microwave technologies have matured to the point where they are now ready for the transition from engineering and manufacturing development [EMD, the stage after ACTD] to deployment as operational weapons. - "High Power Microwaves: Strategic and Operational Implications for Warfare", Col. E.M. Walling, USAF, Occasional Paper 11, Center for Strategy and Technology (Air War College)
There is even, interestingly enough, a Directed Energy Professional Society, which has put out a newsletter since 2000:
Past DEPS activities have focused mostly on lasers with minimal high power microwave representation. I believe that this was principally because of the greater funds being spent on lasers and the greater informational release restrictions on high power microwaves. Future DEPS activities should provide a more balanced view of directed energy. The last issue of this newsletter featured the very popular high power microwave active denial system. It is currently the only HPM application that can be discussed publicly, but many other HPM applications can be discussed within the DEPS classified forums. - William L. Baker, "Wave Front: The Directed Energy Technical Newsletter", Winter 2002
for the C-130 as HPM Platform
As one peruses the available literature regarding HPM, two aircraft continually gain mention: the F-16, and the C-130. The constant appearance of the F-16 is no great surprise; it is common knowledge that the F-16 and its LANTIRN pods underwent significant HPM testing and hardening in the mid-1990s.
The Phillips Laboratory just completed a multiyear program to measure and understand the effects of HPM on an F-16 testbed aircraft... As part of this program, the susceptibility of the low-altitude navigation and targeting IR system for night (LANTIRN) to electromagnetic radiation was measured and hardening countermeasures developed and demonstrated. This technology was transitioned to the LANTIRN System Program Office (SPO) for implementation. - Dr. W.L. Baker, AF Phillips Labs, "Air Force High-Power Microwave Technology Program", Aircraft Survivability Newsletter, Fall 1995
The greater mystery is the ubiquity of the C-130.
At present we think of large aircraft as bombers, tankers, surveillance aircraft, or air launched cruise missile launch platforms. In the future, large aircraft will be the first to carry directed energy weapons. - New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, 1995
The United States has supplied major weapons system to its allies for decades. In the case of technologies that are relevant to microwave weapons, a number of nations now own F-16 and C-130 aircraft... - Col. E.M. Walling, ibid.
There are a few obvious advantages to the C-130 when discussing HPM weaponry. The most obvious is its remarkable payload abilities; any HPM weapon that could produce a beam of enough power to do damage would of necessity be large and heavy, especially in its infancy. Less obvious are issues such as the C-130's quite capable electrical system, which without modification could run a hundred hairdryers simultaneously, and the fact that a C-130 can fly with even a total electrical failure. This latter could be useful in the field of unpredictable RF weapons. And the EC-130E variant already has acknowledged microwave-powered equipment which sends out high energy RF output for interference.
The USAF supports the feasibility of developing an RF gunship within the next decade that can target tanks and other ground vehicles much the way today's AC-130 Gunship performs its mission. - B. Hillaby, "Directed Energy Weapons Development and Potential", the Defence Associations National Network News, July 1997
for an HPM Weapon Discharge on 9/11 - 10:03 A.M.
Three, and likely four, interesting things occurred at the same time, 10:03 A.M., on the morning of 9/11 in and over Pennsylvania. Individually, each can be explained by a less outlandish theory than an HPM discharge, but taken as a group, another comprehensive explanation remains elusive.
First, the FBI has confirmed that aboard United Flight 93, the cockpit voice recording (CVR) ends at 10:03. This was reported as a significant event, primarily because the Army's own study of seismic data indicates that the plane's impact occurred three minutes later. Prosaic explanations for this included the effect of a total electrical failure aboard the airliner. In this discussion, however, such a failure becomes much more interesting.
Second, at 10:03, Flight 93 makes a dramatic change in course. This is another confirmed event, thanks to FlightExplorer's accurate aircraft tracking software. Again, a change in heading is not in itself significant; it is the timing which bears investigation. Third, the transponder signal from Flight 93, which had been turned off, then on again, ceases transmitting. This was confirmed by the NBC interview between Tom Brokaw and air traffic controller Stacey Taylor, and at the time the assumption was that at 10:03, the airliner had crashed. Since this has been determined not to be the case, again the timing of the event increases it's significance.
The fourth event to take place was a power outage on the ground.
Students who attend the nearest elementary school, Shanksville Elementary, two miles from the crash site, were evacuated earlier after the midmorning crash knocked out power to the school. - "Officials, media swarm over site", Peirce/Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/01
Barry Lichty, the mayor of Indian Lake Borough, said the ground shook and the town's electricity went out. He called the utility company to find out the cause. - "Crash rattles home, neighbors", ibid.
Early photographs released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP) show a newly repaired power line stretching over Flight 93's crash site. The conclusion could be that the airliner severed the electric wires as it hit the ground.
The question is whether the power outage began before the line could have been severed.
This was not an easy piece of information to obtain. I first tried to retrieve outage records from Penelec, the First Energy Company which services Shanksville and its school (circuit 00017-12). Interestingly, and to my customer service representative's amazement, there is no record of the outage on their overview screens. The rep also checked nearby accounts on Melva Rd, Lake Shore Rd, Marilyn Way, Main St., Stoney Creek Rd, and Lake Stoney Creek Rd. We were both startled to find that there was no record of an outage at any of these nearby accounts.
An electrical disruption onboard Flight 93 explains the why the CVR stopped recording. The same disruption explains the transponder signal going silent. It can also explain the sudden course change as the electronic components of the aircraft fail. But it is the suggestion of the coincident electrical failure in the air, and that in the power grid on the ground, which speaks to a single source which could cause both disruptions: a high power microwave pointed at the aircraft, affecting both its avionics and electrical systems on the ground.
Some Final Thoughts
The significance of the perturbation [caused by an HPM attack] is proportional to the importance of the system corrupted. A portable compact disc player may react by garbling music or changing the track it was playing. A similar amount of energy directed at a commercial aircraft could corrupt the plane's control and navigation systems enough to cause a crash. - A.E. Pevler, ibid.
HPM was "sold" early on as a desirable weapons system for several reasons. First, it is "nonlethal", in that it targets equipment, not people; it feels like the moral equivalent of the Lone Ranger shooting the gun out of the bad guy's hand. It is very stealthy, in that it leaves no evidence within its target of its attack. It is an easy technology to keep secret, since the development has been so vastly underreported; the idea sounds much like science fiction, a "death ray" only deadly to electronics.
One early argument against a shoot-down scenario regarding Flight 93 was that it would be impossible to keep secret, and too risky to try; anyone on the ground could be holding a camcorder these days, and could inadvertently capture the image of a missile streaking towards the airliner. A critical point brought up early in HPM development, and reiterated after the "CNN-ization" of the Gulf War, was that no television camera could ever record an HPM attack, since its own electronics would be ruined by the wide swath of microwave energy.
The history of classified weapons systems speaks to what the late Ben Rich, former head of Lockheed's Skunk Works (home of the SR-71 Blackbird and the F-117A Stealth Fighter) called "silver bullet" systems. These are breakthrough technologies, applied to Defense, which are held in secret and not revealed until absolutely necessary. The advantage to this is that any potential enemy cannot begin to defend against what they don't know you even have.
A good example comes from Rich's own company. The F-117A stealth was operational well before its "debut" in the Gulf War; in fact, planning was quite far along to use the aircraft to bomb Khaddafi. At the last minute, "conventional" aircraft were sent instead, Libya having been considered not a crucial enough target to jeopardize the secrecy of the stealth program.
This thinking is quite relevant to the events of 9/11. If an HPM weapon could have been deployed over Pennsylvania that morning, strategists were offered an easy choice. If this non-lethal weapon worked, they had the advantage of not having "really" fired upon U.S. citizens; they were shooting at the electronics. If it didn't work, there were still fighters over Washington, D.C., and more drastic measures could be taken as Flight 93 approached the nation's capitol. Either way, there was no chance of the weapon's secrecy being compromised, since no record of the attack could exist.
(This also, interestingly, suggests why the fighters themselves were not ordered towards the doomed airliner; hardening technology notwithstanding, the safer bet would be to keep the valuable aircraft and pilots away from the HPM weapon.)
Sadly, none of the above can constitute definitive proof that Flight 93 was brought down by HPM. The only thing that could would be a government or military source confirming events as outlined here, and given the nature and record of classified programs (and those involved in them) that seems quite unlikely.
However it is still possible that someone who took part in these events may eventually come forward. There are heroes possibly yet unsung, not only the passengers and crew of Flight 93, who gave their lives in defense of their country, but also those who risked their own safety and the exposure of a secret weapon whose implications are changing the face of modern warfare who risked all this to protect not only our nation's capitol, but also its sense of conscience.