The UK’s Guardian reports RAF jets have been scrambled twice this month in response to terrorist alerts on passenger airliners flying over Britain, defense sources have revealed.
Eurofighter Typhoons took off from the quick reaction alert base at Coningsby in Lincolnshire – one of two such bases in the UK – minutes after warnings of suspected attempts to hijack American airliners.
Procedures were triggered that could ultimately lead to a decision to destroy the aircraft, to avoid mass casualties. That decision would be taken “at the highest levels of government”, officials say. Though a decision would be taken by the prime minister, if he could not be contacted or was incapacitated, it would be taken by two other designated members of the cabinet, believed to be the home secretary and the transport secretary.
Last Monday British air traffic control picked up the words “hostage” and “ransom” from a United Airlines plane bound for Frankfurt in Germany. The plane suddenly dropped height south of Reading in Berkshire and a request for the airliner's auxiliary power unit to be activated – a very unusual occurrence – was heard.
The Typhoons from Coningsby approached the airliner over Manston airfield in Thanet, east Kent, a matter of minutes – the exact time is classified – after the alert was first sounded, according to officials familiar with the incident.
In the other incident earlier this month, on 2 March, the crew of an American Airlines plane put out an alert, picked up by the air defense control and reporting center at Boulmer in Northumberland, warning that somebody was trying to get into the cockpit.
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