Numerous new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, many of which deal with the US military’s actions around the time of–and in response to–the 9/11 attacks, while other new entries provide important information about the military’s responses to suspicious aircraft prior to 9/11.
New timeline entries describe how NORAD–the military organization responsible for defending US airspace–regularly launched fighter jets in response to suspicious aircraft in the years before 9/11, with fighters able to take off within minutes of a scramble order.
Other new entries describe a large Russian military exercise that began the day before 9/11 and was monitored by NORAD fighters that were deployed to Alaska and Northern Canada. The Russians promptly called off their exercise in response to the attacks in the US on September 11. As well as monitoring this Russian exercise, on September 11, personnel at the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, were participating in the annual training exercise Vigilant Guardian, which has been described as a “full-blown nuclear war” exercise.
New timeline entries also examine in detail the actions on September 11 of two key NORAD officials: Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), and Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR). After these two men spoke over the phone about the day’s exercise, Arnold joined a teleconference with other NORAD officials. This, however, meant he was unavailable when Marr tried calling him to get authorization to launch fighters in response to the hijacked Flight 11. After leaving the teleconference, Arnold learned of Marr’s call but wondered if the report of a hijacking was part of the exercise. Arnold soon called Marr back and told him to go ahead and launch fighters in response to the hijacking.
Arnold then called the NORAD operations center about the hijacking and the request for fighters. However, when operations center personnel saw television reports about the first crash at the World Trade Center, minutes later, they did not realize it involved the hijacked plane they’d just been alerted to. The operations center was in fact in an “information void” during the course of the attacks, according to officers there that day. It was also receiving many reports of hijackings from the FAA that turned out to be incorrect.
Other timeline entries describe how the US military was placed on an increased state of alert on September 11. Following the terrorist attacks, installations around the world were placed on the highest state of alert, known as Force Protection Condition Delta (FPCON Delta). Soon after that, the defense readiness condition was raised to Defcon 3, the highest level since 1973. News of the increased defense readiness condition was soon communicated within NORAD, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld notified President Bush of the raised threat level. The military stayed at Defcon 3 until September 14, when the defense readiness condition was lowered one notch, to Defcon 4.