Sunday, January 3, 2016

RAF pilots should get psychological counseling if they have to shoot down airliners in feared terror attacks, say MPs

Fighter pilots would be offered psychological help if they were ever forced to shoot down a passenger plane in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, according to a newly released report by MPs.

It revealed how the Government had prepared a contingency plan for what to do if a plane was hijacked over the UK.

'Being ordered to shoot down an airplane which is full of civilian passengers and within visual range is, in our view, likely to be an extremely traumatic experience,' said a report by the Commons Defense Select Committee.

The 2000 report added: 'We firmly hope that it [September 11 attack] will never happen, but it may.'

Typhoon jets are ready to be deployed to intercept such a threat 24 hours a day as part of the RAF's Quick Reaction Alert.

The jets, which are based at RAF Coningsby and Lincolnshire, are equipped with two 2,000-litre tanks, four short range air-to-air missiles and four advanced medium range air-to-air missiles.  

Since the September 11 attacks, in which almost 3,000 were killed, the Typhoons are said to have been scrambled on dozens of occasions to intercept passenger planes which had either deviated off course or lost contact with air traffic control.

The report expressed deep concern that while pilots had received little to no training in the event that they harmed or killed civilians in an attack.

It said: 'They are trained to intercept and shoot down enemy military aircraft. They - or their colleagues - are also trained to attack targets on the ground and to do so in the knowledge that, however carefully chosen those targets are, collateral civilian casualties cannot be ruled out. 

'But those are both very different things from asking them to shoot down a hijacked civilian passenger airplane very probably on a flight to or from the UK itself. 

'We asked what support MoD and the RAF were providing to the air crew who might be faced with such a task. 

'No mention was made of any provision for care or counselling after the event.'

It added: 'We recommend that the MoD and the RAF provide specific additional psychological advice and training for interceptor aircrew of the QRA aircraft, which may be called upon to respond to a rogue civilian aircraft incident.'

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