In 2004, U.S. Air Force General Richard Myers responded to a pointed question on the subject of military exercises, or war games, practiced prior to September 11th 2001. Myers reported that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) had practiced “five exercise hijack events” between November 1999 and October 2000, all of which “included a suicide crash into a high value target.” Records released since that time show that NORAD had practiced 28 hijack exercise events in the 20 months leading up to 9/11. At least six of these were focused on hijackings located entirely within the Unites States, putting to rest the excuse that NORAD was only looking for threats coming from outside of U.S. borders.
One of these exercises, Vigilant Guardian in October 2000, practiced the interception of an airliner hijacked for a suicide attack against the 39-story United Nations building in New York City, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Another air defense exercise, called Amalgam Virgo and practiced just three months before 9/11, was accompanied by a planning document that had a picture of Osama bin Laden on the cover.
Many of the war games that were occurring on the day of 9/11 were under the sponsorship of Ralph Eberhart, commander in chief (CINC) of NORAD. Eberhart was in command of the war games that had the greatest impact on the nation’s air defenses and has therefore been named as a suspect in the crimes. Of course, he had help.
NORAD is divided into several large areas that cover the U.S. and Canada, one of which is the region of the continental U.S. called CONR, headed on 9/11 by General Larry Arnold. Within CONR there are three sectors. The 9/11 attacks took place in the airspace monitored by CONR’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). Personnel at NEADS were therefore primarily responsible for trying to coordinate the NORAD response to the hijackings.
At NEADS, Colonel Robert Marr was in charge. Marr had been in the U.S. Air Force for over 20 years until 1994, at which time he spent a few months in Saudi Arabia as “director of combat operations.”1 He then left the military to work two years for a private company called Phoenix Air. Perhaps coincidentally, Phoenix Air provided aircraft for the Amalgam Virgo exercises.
Investigator Daniel Hopsicker suggested that Phoenix Air was associated with Huffman Aviation where the alleged 9/11 hijackers had trained.2 Regardless, it is clear that Phoenix Air works for the U.S. deep state. The company has been hired to fly prisoners for the rendition program, was the first to get drone contracts, and enjoyed a unique position flying patients during the ebola scare. More relevant to 9/11 are its abilities to “provide realistic electronic attack (EA) electronic countermeasures (ECM)” and “radar and communications jamming.”
After his stint at Phoenix Air, Marr returned to the military as the exercise coordinator at NEADS. By 9/11, he had risen to the position of commander of the facility.
NORAD planners stated that several exercises were fully or mostly planned as of 9/11. These included Vigilant Guardian and Vigilant Overview, both command post exercises (CPX), and Amalgam Virgo and Amalgam Warrior, which were field training (or FTX) exercises. All four of these exercises were sponsored by CINCNORAD Eberhart.
It is clear that at least one of these planned exercises, Vigilant Guardian, was actually being conducted on 9/11. Additionally, another war game called Apollo Guardian was running on 9/11. This was an exercise conducted by the U.S. Space Command, an agency also being run by Eberhart.
FTX exercises are sometimes what are referred to as SPADEs. The NORAD exercise planners clarified that this means “a track is taken out of radar coverage and then re-introduced as an unknown track.” This exercise feature is interesting given that Flight 77 was lost on radar for a period of time on 9/11 and then reappeared in a way that has not yet been explained.
Amalgam Virgo 02 was a modification of Twin Star, a live-fly joint FAA/NORAD exercise conducted in 1995. Twin Star was described by NORAD exercise manager Major Paul Goddard, who said the plan was to have interceptor jets scramble and escort a hijacked airliner. During the actual exercise, “the fighters never got off on the appropriate heading, and it took them forever to catch up.”
It seems worthwhile to consider that Amalgam Virgo 02, which was reportedly in the final planning stages as of 9/11, might actually have been in play that morning. One reason to consider this is that, on 9/11, the interceptor jets “never got off on the appropriate heading, and it took them forever to catch up.” Another reason is that 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste showed considerable interest in Amalgam Virgo 02, as did the 9/11 Commission staff in its request for documents.
According to Ben-Veniste, this was a case in which “NORAD had already in the works plans to simulate in an exercise a simultaneous hijacking of two planes in the United States.” The plan for Amalgam Virgo 02 was therefore similar to the 9/11 attacks, with multiple, simultaneous hijackings.
Another large-scale exercise being conducted on 9/11 was Global Guardian, a joint nuclear war simulation run by the U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) in conjunction with NORAD. This was essentially a practice for Armageddon that involved live nuclear bombs and at least three airborne command and control airliners called E-4Bs.2 The E-4B that was seen circling the White House during the 9/11 attacks might have been part of this exercise.
The 9/11 Commission did not mention most of these exercises in its report. To the contrary, the report mentioned only Vigilant Guardian and then only once, in a deceptively stated footnote that said “On 9/11, NORAD was scheduled to conduct a military exercise, Vigilant Guardian, which postulated a bomber attack from the Soviet Union.”3 This statement is false in several ways, not the least of which is that NORAD was involved in multiple exercises on 9/11. And Vigilant Guardian was not simply an exercise involving one bomber from the former Soviet Union.
Vigilant Guardian 01 (VG) had been in play for several days as of 9/11. On September 9, it included a scenario in which terrorists hijacked an airliner and planned to attack New York City. The exercise presented a number of other scenarios based around airliner hijackings and, in one of these, the fictitious terrorists threatened to “Rain Terror from the Skies.”
According to the VG planning documents, the 9/11 exercise was to be conducted “sim over live,” meaning the simulated hijackings were to be inserted into the live air control system. This was repeated in the instructions—“Ensure all tracks of interest (sim or live) are input on the live chart.” Furthermore, the VG plan was that “All expansions will be Real World.” Although frequently misunderstood, the term “Real World” does not refer to an actual hijacking, it refers to the use of real aircraft in live-fly exercises.
Due to these confusing circumstances, NEADS staff confused the actual hijackings on 9/11 with the exercises. As researcher Matthew Everett explained, “What is remarkable is that at a time when it should have been obvious to them that the U.S. was in the middle of a major terrorist attack, these key personnel [at NEADS] were uncertain whether what was happening was real or simulated.” The confusion caused much more than a “30 second” problem as Eberhart suggested, because NEADS personnel thought the exercises were continuing well after the attacks.
On 9/11, VG was scheduled to include a simulated hijacking at 9:40 a.m., within an hour of when Flight 11 struck the WTC. When they first learned that Flight 11 was hijacked, NEADS staff noted that the “exercise” appeared to be starting an hour early that morning. The evidence indicates that everyone at NEADS, ostensibly including Colonel Marr, thought the actual hijackings were exercises. They even joked about it. That might have been due to the VG plan stating that the NEADS building where Colonel Marr and company were located was a planned “exercise play area” and everyone there, knowingly or not, was “subject to exercise play.”
NEADS radar scopes were displaying simulated information at least until the time of the Pentagon attack. The same problem was going on at Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC), another exercise play area, with radar screens showing false tracks as late as 10:12. In fact, personnel at CMOC called NEADs in an attempt to stop the exercise inputs. Because those inputs did not stop, it appeared that someone wanted the NEADS and CMOC radar scopes to continue showing false information until after the four hijacked planes had been destroyed.
NORAD exercise manager Ken Merchant added that the NMCC, located at the Pentagon, regularly participated in NORAD exercises by interjecting emergency action messages (EAMs). On 9/11, the performance of the NMCC, which plays a critical role in establishing the military chain of command and communicating orders, was remarkably poor. Officers there lacked any sense of urgency and were completely ineffective with regard to communications.
The disruptive effect of the ongoing NORAD exercises that morning continued until after all the hijacked planes had crashed. One military newspaper said VG continued until 30 minutes after attacks. Similarly, Global Guardian was “formally terminated” at 10:44 a.m. but certain actions taken after that time, including that the CMOC’s blast doors were closed (a needless action in response to hijacked airliners), suggested that the exercise continued.
More investigation is needed into the planning and effects of the war games being conducted on 9/11. The role of Colonel Robert Marr, for example, and his former employer Phoenix Air, should be examined much more closely. Additionally, the possibility that Amalgam Virgo 02, a planned exercise that mimicked the sequence of events on 9/11, should be considered.
1] 9/11 Commission, Memorandum for the Record: Interview with Colonel Robert Marr, prepared by Geoffrey Brown, January 23, 2004
2] Joe Dejka, Inside StratCom on September 11 Offutt exercise took real-life twist, The Omaha World-Herald, February 27, 2002
3] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, Lee Hamilton, 9/11 Commission Report, Notes to Chapter 1, footnote 116
Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.