Multiple air traffic controllers in New York allegedly received a threat Monday in audio obtained exclusively by CBS News: “We are flying a plane into the Capitol on Wednesday. Soleimani will be avenged.”
Although it remains unclear who sent the threat, the notion is referring to Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed last year in a U.S. drone strike ordered by President Trump (CBS). It was made on the one-year anniversary of Soleimani’s death, which along with a number of other issues, is intensifying relations between Iran and the United States. The situation has prompted the United States to carry out major military posture changes in the region.
Senior national security officials said they have been briefed about the threat, but told Fox News that the threat did not seem to be “credible.” A national security official told Fox News that “relevant agencies” were briefed on Tuesday’s incident and that “while it is possible it is a hoax, it is being taken seriously.” And a senior Defense official told Fox News that they take “all threats seriously,” but that “this does not seem to be credible, though we’ll continue to assess.” Another senior U.S. official told Fox News that the threat doesn’t seem legit. “We’re not overly concerned,” the official said. In a statement to Fox News, the FBI said it “takes all threats of violence to public safety seriously.” The Capitol Police was working with federal law enforcement partners (FOX).
Although it is a major breach of radio transmission protocol and they are investigating it as such. Sources told CBS News a message was sent to air traffic controllers on Tuesday reminding them that any threat or a plane deviating from its flight path should be reported immediately. There is also the nature of Iran’s recent threats towards the United States to consider here, one of which was especially ominous. “It’s even possible that there are people inside your home [the United States] that will respond to your crime,” Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, the current head of the Quds Force, who assumed the position after Soleimani died, said at an event in Iran on News Year’s Day.
The National Capital Region is the most well-defended ring of airspace in the country. Few outlets, if any, have reported as extensively on it over the years as The War Zone. It is defended by a wing of specially-trained pilots that fly F-16C/D Viper fighter jets that are now sporting the most advanced radars the type can carry. These jets sit alert and fly regular air patrols out of Andrews Air Force Base. They are also augmented by outside fighter assets at various times depending on the threat profile and other events happening in the region. MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from the Coast Guard also stand alert at Reagan International Airport, with their job being intercepting ‘slow movers,’ such as light aircraft, and ushering them away from sensitive areas, as well as collecting intelligence on small targets, such as drones.
In addition, the National Capital Region is defended by the most advanced integrated air defense system in the United States, which fuzes together a vast array of sensor data, both military and civilian, into a common airspace picture. This allows for split-second decision-making based on the best available information, and rightfully so as those in command may only have seconds to make life and death calls.
This same air defense network is tied into NASAMS radar-guided surface-to-air missile systems, which are scattered around the area in an overlapping manner. These missile systems, which use the AIM-120 AMRAAM as their kinetic component, can take down large aircraft within a matter of seconds. There are also close-in point defense capabilities provided by AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air defense systems, which use the latest FIM-92 Stinger missile as their primary kinetic component. These are scattered near sensitive targets in their mobile, Humvee-mounted form, and also installed on hard stands on rooftops near the National Mall.
There are many other non-kinetic systems, as well, including high-power laser warning systems and, in recent years, systems capable of locating and disabling small radar cross-section remotely controlled aircraft like hobby drones. With all this in mind, and on a day when Iran specifically showed off its drone and cruise missile swarming capabilities and capacity in a grand and audacious manner, and considering they have been remarkably successful at breaching the best air defense systems available in the past with these capabilities, such a threat needs to be taken seriously (The Drive).
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: YAHOO NEWS