"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
Doyleís Sherlock Holmes
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
Three minutes before impact
A third event took place when Flight 93ís transponder
signal, which had over the course of the hijacking been turned off,
and then on again, ceased transmitting. When NBCís 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 93ís 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,
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)
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
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
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
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
- 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)
- 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 HPMís trail becomes more apparent by the early
1990ís, 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
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 adversaryís
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
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
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
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
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
The Case 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
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,
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-130ís 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 todayís AC-130
Gunship performs its mission.
- B. Hillaby, "Directed
Energy Weapons Development and Potential", the Defense
Associations National Network News, July 1997
The Case for an HPM Weapon Discharge on 9/11 -
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 Armyís own study of seismic data indicates
that the planeís 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
FlightExplorerís 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 itís
The fourth event to take place was a power outage on the
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 townís
electricity went out. He called the utility company to find out
- "Crash rattles home, neighbors",
Early photographs released by the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP) show a
newly repaired power line stretching over Flight 93ís 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
representativeís 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 planeís 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 guyís
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 Lockheedís 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 donít know you even
A good example comes from Richís 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 didnít work, there were still fighters over
Washington, D.C., and more drastic measures could be taken as
Flight 93 approached the nationís capitol. Either way, there
was no chance of the weaponís 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
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 nationís capitol, but also
its sense of conscience.