Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How will the military respond?

Government response is a matter of layers. In a dramatic First Contact scenario, such as an extraterrestrial craft landing in the United States, many government agencies could be involved in the response. Military reaction is a given. The question is what sort of reaction could you expect and to what degree? Most metropolitan areas are within a quick flight of an Air National Guard base. They are among the first responders one could expect on the scene. An example of this rapid response is the case of a Turkish flight student who stole a plane in Canada and flew it into U.S. airspace. Two F-16 fighters were dispatched by the Wisconsin National Guard. They followed the stolen plane for hundreds of miles, trying to communicate via radio and hand signals. The plane flew near the Wisconsin State Capitol building, sparking an evacuation. However, despite the concerns the pilots didn’t fire on the plane and they seemed to take extraordinary measures to end the situation peacefully.

This bodes well for anyone planning a First Contact event. You can imagine that National Guard fighter jets would respond within the first 20 minutes of any landing, perhaps quicker depending on proximity. If the extraterrestrial craft is in the air they would probably try to determine the threat level. It would be important to have an extraterrestrial craft avoid buildings that could be perceived as high value targets for terrorists, such as state capitols and well known high rise buildings.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command is ultimately in charge of tracking such threats and coordinating the response. The National Guard first responders could quickly be joined by fighter jets from a nearby Air Force base. The best way to track an extraterrestrial craft moving at a slow speed might be attack helicopters like the Blackhawk. These choppers can move quickly, slowly or hover depending on the need, making them much more flexible if an extraterrestrial craft is moving slowly. They are often based at Army Posts.

There are two variables that could impact what happens in such an event. The first is what orders the responding pilots receive from superiors. You would imagine this would be the most conservative level. Ordering a fighter jet or attack helicopter to fire on an extraterrestrial craft would have extreme consequences. If the fly over is in an urban area the risk to civilians on the ground would be of primary concern. If the extraterrestrial craft is on the ground the necessity of such aggressive actions would seem to be negated. The second issue is how the pilots themselves react. An extraterrestrial craft would want to move quite slowly and deliberately. The biggest risk from a military flight crew standpoint would be surprise and overreaction.

A dramatic appearance by an extraterrestrial craft would be a strong, visual way to start the First Contact cycle, picking up near immediate media attention and sending that coverage to national and then international levels. The question is how to do this while keeping the military response on the conservative side. Careful timing and planning is the key. You must accomplish the goal of media coverage while keeping the military calm. It would be a critical part of the First Contact plan.

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