Fri, May 13, 2005
One of the F-16 pilots who intercepted a private plane that
strayed into restricted airspace on May 11 said that he was
prepared to use force if necessary to prevent a potential attack,
and expressed confidence in the security system protecting the
Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Lehman, a member of the District of
Columbia Air National Guard's 121st Fighter Squadron said during an
interview on Fox News that he was surprised when the Cessna's pilot
did not initially respond to signals meant to change his
Lehman's F-16 fighter jet made three passes by the plane,
dropping warning flares to get the pilot to veer west, away from
the White House and Capitol, he said. White House spokesman Scott
McClellan said during a news conference May 11 that the Cessna came
within three miles from the White House before turning away.
While acknowledging that he was prepared to shoot down the plane
if necessary, Lehman said that decision comes from higher-level
authorities "outside of my cockpit."
The Washington, D.C., area has "multiple layers" of defense
against terrorist attacks, including ground-based assets capable of
engaging "targets of interest" if necessary, he said.
Lehman said he's convinced these defense layers "would have
stopped an aircraft" before it was able to make impact.
Lehman's unit is part of the 113th Wing, a National Guard unit
that has served on rotational duty in support of Operation Noble
Eagle since shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
[ANN Thanks Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service]
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