- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 31, 2002

In the moments after the September 11 attacks, a U.S. commander considered sending unarmed Air Force fighter jets on suicide missions to stop any additional hijacked airliners by ramming them, officials said yesterday.
Air Force Col. Robert K. Marr Jr. said that as commander of the Northeast Air Defense Sector he would have had to obtain authority from superiors to order such missions. He said he never made a decision to seek the go-ahead because it was not necessary.
"In the heat of the moment, all suggestions were considered but no decision was made to employ unarmed fighters," Col. Marr said in a statement provided by his spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Kacey Blaney.
Col. Marr first disclosed the fact that he had considered this last-ditch tactic in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., which is preparing a documentary on the events of September 11.
In his statement yesterday, Col. Marr said it was his responsibility to consider even the most extreme measures.
"An airman asked to make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his country is no more or less than the soldier asked to storm the beaches at Normandy," he said.
Col. Blaney said Col. Marr told her the suicide missions were no more than "a thought that went through his mind" as he and others considered how to deal with the unprecedented situation facing the nation that day.
There were only four armed fighter jets on alert in Col. Marr's area of responsibility stretching from Minnesota to Maine to Virginia at the time the first hijacked airliner struck the World Trade Center, Col. Blaney said.
Unsure how many more attacks might be unfolding, Col. Marr diverted unarmed Michigan Air National Guard fighter jets that happened to be flying a training mission in northern Michigan at the time of the first attack, but they were released after the fourth hijacked plane went down in Pennsylvania.
"There was a push to get everything available in the air," to defend the skies after the attacks began, said Maj. Barry Venable, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the parent unit of Col. Marr's command.
Col. Blaney said Col. Marr and others who huddled in his command center in Rome, N.Y., that morning searched for ideas, realizing that unarmed fighter jets could be used in a variety of roles as extra "eyes and ears," or possibly as battering rams.
"All of this was considered: How can we possibly use them?" Col. Blaney said. "All good commanders are called on to think outside the box, and this probably would have been outside the box."

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