The NYPD Has Air-to-Air Capability

The Internet was aflame this morning with talk of  NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly’s statement to 60 Minutes last night that his department has the ability to shoot down aircraft. Naturally, this prompted people to ask if the department has some type of surface-to-air-missiles. We’ve seen talk about the militarization of America’s police departments over the past few decades but this would take things to a new level!

Here’s what Kelly told 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley:

Pelley: Do you mean to say that the NYPD has the means to take down an aircraft?

Kelly: Yes, I prefer not to get into the details but obviously this would be in a very extreme situation.

Pelley: You have the equipment and the training.

Kelly: Yes.

At the end of the day, it turns out that the NYPD isn’t running around with SL-AMRAAM’s (pronounced slam-ram) like the ones that defend Washington DC, Patriot missiles or even shoulder-fired Stinger missiles. Nope, the department’s anti-aircraft capacity comes from snipers trained to fire the famous Barrett .50 cal while flying in a police department helo. This is very similar to how the Coast Guard uses HH-65 Dolphin choppers to defend Washington DC against small, slow moving Cessna-style planes.

From the NY Post:

The weapon, which the department has had for four years, is stored in an NYPD safe and is deployed only for “special occasions,” such as when the president is in town, the sources added.

Let’s just hope the NYPD doesn’t start experimenting with using an AT-6 light attack plane for this mission like U.S. Northern Command did last November.

For more on helo-sniping, check out this post at sister site Kit Up!

Via Gizmodo and 60 Minutes.

  • blight

    It won’t be long before the NYPD invests in such capability. They already have a foreign intelligence agency and collaborate with the FBI and the CIA intimately. They own Floyd Bennett and use it to deploy helicopters, so with more tax hikes they could refurbish it to deploy light aircraft for emergency operations, and procure some armed AT-6’s.

    There would be some serious legal questions about acquiring weapons, since things as “basic” as the M2 aren’t in the law enforcement toolbox. Where air to air missiles would come from is kind of a mystery.

  • ew-3

    Sad to see my hometown turned into Franco era Spain.

    • Daedalus

      Kind of a necessity seeing as how NY is the largest US city, the the largest US target, and has huge multinational and financial interests . I’m glad to hear that NY has an intelligence agency that’s considered one of the top in the world.

      And I hardly think that NY’s security initiatives even come close to the suppressive police state of Spain under Franco’s rule. I must point at you and yell, “LIBERAL”.

      • ew-3

        FWIW – I’m a mix of libertarian and conservative and a Viet Nam vet.

        Problem I have is that a lot of the steps taken have had little or nothing to do with the WTC aircraft attacks.

        The 9/11 attacks could have prevented by simply having locked and secured cockpits as the pilots wanted but were blocked on by the federal government.
        Also the federal government (FAA) had rules that we should give in to the hijackers and not fight back. Lastly the knives they used were legal to carry on.

        All this TSA cr@p at the airport is pretty much useless.
        The cockpits are secure and the passengers know to kick ass when there is a problem. It would be even better if pilots were encouraged to carry firearms.

        I’m not sure what the point of so many cops carrying M4s is. Do we expect terrorists to enter into a land battle? If and when terrorists attack again with stealth and likely with a bomb not small arms.

        Want to make the country more secure stop illegal immigration. Secure the Mexican border. And stop allowing potential terrorists to come into this country (specifically the large number of Somalis that come in under UN refugee status)

    • orly?

      What stance would you want NYC, THE most targetted city on the globe, take?

      A hard target or a soft target?

    • blight

      I’m looking for the mass graves in upstate New York, but…

    • Matt

      Yep, fighting terrorism is exactly the same as a totalitarian state… Its not like theres abunch of intitled, liberal protesters (unshot and unbeaten) outside Wall Street… Cause a protest like that could never happen in a place like the America you apperently think exists.

      Seriously there are steps that need to be taken by the gov to protect its people, that doesnt make America into Fracist Spain, Nazi German, or what ever.

    • Chuck

      Really? A .50 caliber in a helicopter is equivalent to Franco era Spain? Really?

  • jamesb


    Everybody Calm TF down!

    The Offensive weapon is rumoured to be nothing less than mountable 50 cal. machine guns turrets…
    I would assume simple to machine build the stands on the city’s Agusta 109’s or Bell 412’s most likly since they would be like having Huey’s….

    My question is this?

    For the military to ‘shoot down an a/c the chain runs to a US General with National Command Authority….

    Is Kelly saying HE or The NYC Mayor can give that comamnd?

    Last is a Helo that can do about 120 gonna be able ‘catch up’ to a commerical jet?


    I’ll bet this one lands on Obama and the Joint Chiefs desk’s

    ref:….. .

  • Musson1

    On 9/11 – the pilot of the police helicopter flying over the twin towers was told he must do ‘whatever it took’ to keep another plane from hitting the buildings.

    In his case – he was suppose to crash his helicopter into the oncoming aircraft.

    • blight

      I wonder if that would even do the job. If the bulk of the aircraft continues onwards, it might still hit a target skyscraper. You’d have to rip the aircraft to shreds and far enough away to allow debris to disperse all over NYC, which in turn would escalate the property damage, but definitely kill a lot less than three-thousand people.

    • crackedlenses

      I’ve read of Air Force fighters hitting the air during 9/11 with virtually the same mission because they didn’t have time to arm up……

      • TMB

        That was the mission of the F-16s that were scrambled to intercept the flight that went down in PA. One plane was to hit the tail and the other was to hit the cockpit.

    • sambo808

      but, if 911 was in fact the inside job so many conspiracy theorists claim it was, then what would be the point in the helicopter furthering the suicide mission?

  • Zach

    When you’ve got the NYPD and Coasties flying MiGCAP in helos over NY and DC, you know something’s not quite right. The AT-6s would make a world of difference, or even better, a squadron of something along the line of Skyraiders. The only precedent for a helo-on-aircraft kill is the Air America incident, in any case.
    The option really isn’t a feasible one. Or perhaps it’s just my secret desire to see a Bae Hawk with AIM-9’s in NYPD markings patrolling the city.

    • TLAM Strike

      A Iraqi Mi-24 Hind shot down an Iranian F-4 Phantom once. Iranian AH-1Js shot down four MiGs in that war as well.

  • tiger

    The NJ ANG 177th Fighter Wing Has F16’s Just Out Side Atlantic City. They are a Intercepter unit And can be over NYC With A hit of the burners.

    • blight

      Are they on 24 hour alert like the ominous old days?

  • Lance

    Just great to see the NYPD turn every bit as gestapo like with more and more military weapons in there hands and less accountability to use them and then they say how civilian should never own guns this is a sick mind set for America’s largest city.

  • DanS

    Would it be so hard to change the filter on this site so that the room at the front of the plane where the pilots drive isn’t half **** every time its used?

  • No Nym

    It is only a matter of time before SWAT and police chase types start calling for air support.

  • tiger

    I say close off NYC, mine the bridges & make it a prison with Lee van Cleef in Charge…….

  • Ben

    The problem with MANPADS like Stingers is that the traveling airplane still possesses a tremendous amount of momentum due to the simple physics of it – heavy weight, high speed, takes a lot to stop. MANPADS usually have such limited range (5 miles or less) that a lumbering passenger jet could not be stopped in time – it could be made to veer off course, perhaps, into another block of residential buildings nearby, maybe, like apartment units instead of the Empire State Building – but that’s really no better, of course, and you can’t just blow a Boeing 757 to smithereens. MANPADS have small warheads.

    To use an analogy, it would be a little bit like trying to use a blow dart to stop a raging elephant that is charging at you. To top it all off, MANPADS are usually infrared, and if you are trying to take down an airplane its exhaust would only be pointing at you if you were making a tail shot from behind, not from the front head-on.

    • ew-3

      There was a time that NYC was ringed by quite a few Nike missile sites. Grew up close to one of them.

      What’s so hard about a few strategically placed Patriot batteries ?

      Although I doubt we’ll get attacked by aircraft again. If the government really thought it was a threat they’d probably put up a few.

    • Zepheris

      that’s only with 1st generation IR missiles, that was AGES ago… modern generation IR missiles including MANPADS are fully capable of tracking and hitting targets from pretty much any direction.

      this capability have been around for decades.

      Or did you think that we still had to maneuver to 6o’clock to use IR missiles like sidewinder?

      • blight

        His point is that it’s a matter of “stopping power”. Can you totally neutralize a flying aircraft, or will you just cripple it so a flaming fireball crashes into WTC and changes little, if anything?

        • ew-3

          Thank you Blight

        • Zepheris

          true, and i am not contesting that… but i do feel the need to correct his original statement since the part i reflected was based on the old information that is no longer relevant with current world.

        • Cthel

          You’ve hit the nail on the head, I think, There is no (non-nuclear) anti-aircraft missile with a warhead big enough to shred a commercial airliner into pieces too small to be a threat to people on the ground. The biggest threat is of course the engines, which are (effectively) multi-ton lumps of metal that do a lot of damage if they hit the ground.

          • Chimp

            Perhaps some SA-2’s? No idea what the warhead on one of those is, but the whole missile is a monster. That’s gotta hurt…

        • Tiger_38

          KAL 007 (Boeing 747) flew on for another ten minutes after being struck by two K8 air to air missiles from a SU-15. I doubt a fifty caliber on a helicopter could stop any commercial airliner.

    • tiger

      Uh, that still leaves a of stuff falling out of the sky. Not much of a trade off if you save a hi rise but wipe out Times Square with Wreckage. Perhaps the NYPD should worry more about geese??? They seem to be a bigger air threat to planes………..

    • Mastro

      Passenger jets have tons of fuel on board- I’m not sure- but I really wouldn’t want to be hit by a warhead of any size.

      The Concorde crash might be a good example of a plane full of fuel being hit by shrapnel (basically)- how far did that fly?

  • TLAM Strike

    If no one else is going to say it I will:

    Blue Thunder!!

    • tiger

      Yeah, hit that “whisper mode.” LOL

  • Tom Fitz

    given police force’s indiscriminate use of mace (and most recently in NYC) and tasers, I can’t say I’m happy about this.

  • Leonidas

    There is no one at 1 Police Plaza with the balls, much less the authority, to give the order to shoot down an aircraft. It will never happen. This is a case of the Police Commissioner’s old age catching up with him & getting the better of him during the interview. Ray Kelly has been around for way too long, and it’s time for him to go. Unfortunately, he has used 09/11/01 as a pretext to involve the NYPD in things no local police force should be involved with. This is yet another example. I despise the federal government, but I know there are somethings that it should be responsible for, i.e., air defense. Not a local police department.

  • Mike

    Stopping a light aircraft or hilo that has a dirty bomb or a chemical spraying system would be a good idea. buying 50 Cal rifles that are stored in an armory means its a waste of money. By the time you identify a threat its to late. As a counter sniper ability its a great idea buT again if its in an armory its a waste of money. The first responders will never have the time to put it into play.

  • tiger

    Can you picture Barney Fife Asking Andy for a SAM system for Mayberry?? “But Andy……”

  • Tad

    What a money saver. Maybe this could supplant BMD, too.

  • Deane Gilmour

    SHADES OF ROY SCHNIEDER. NYC the first of the country’s “Police States”. Unlike Kandahar, I guess those on the gound are acceptable collateral damage in NYC. This will continue to expand as long as the Fed REFUSES to do one of its FEW Constitutional mandates and protect the nation’s borders.

  • major.rod

    Guys, no stress. Saddam wanted the world to believe he had WMD to deter Iran. It worked, kinda…

  • Kski

    So if New York PD can have a AA ability. I guess there SWAT guys now bust up riots with military grade armored vehicles.

  • Leonidas

    As someone “in the know”, believe me, the NYPD is all “smoke & mirrors.” If the public only knew about the shenanighans that go on at 1 Police Plaza……

  • kyle

    a plane shot down would do just as much damage as a plane crashing deliberately. makes no sense


    If flying cars become popular, major cities around the country will need to deploy their own Apache attack helicopters just in case terrorists decide to take car-bombing to another level.

    • crackedlenses

      We’ll have Halo-style vertical attack craft by then……

    • Mastro

      The flying car is actually a terrible idea- imagine 10,000 people commuting in a snowstorm while checking their cell phones.

  • this is not a big deal
    first off it is not .50 machine guns it is just a sniper rifle
    2nd off any military sniper trained in that guna can hit a target travling at 200-250 kts, so the NYPD can train to do it
    3rd if it is a commercial jet it is the job of the Air Force or Navy to take it out
    and 4th there is protocal for all military (and even police departments) for downing aircraft over a populated area
    and lastly this rifile has been around forever the only knew thing about it is the rounds it shoots
    so calm down….

  • John

    This is OUTRAGEOUS!
    Consider a .50 cal slug that misses or is through-and-through. That slug falling from 1000 feet will kill a pedestrian!
    RE: targets moving at least 250 mph! Hopefully even the NYPD would not be stupid enough to fire at a target moving at that speed!
    This is OUTRADEOUS!

  • XAF2A6X4

    We have USAF/ANG and USN to protect our borders our borders for a reason! Maybe they were asleep at the switch on 9/11 but certainly not now. The last thing America or NY needs are a bunch of city sanctioned yahoos blazing away at unresponsive aircraft over crowded cities. This is something the DOD fighter jocks have training for, not to mention awareness of just what happens when you shootdown aircraft over populated areas. They have protocols and decision matrixes that are well established. What are NYC officials thinking anyway? Make the do their job, so that they can get back to their phony baloney jobs!

  • RetdusmCB

    Ray Kelly is a butt hole he was one when he ran U.S. Customs in the ground and he appears to be doing the same to NYPD. I wonder how many under the table weapons contracts he’s gotten like he did when he misguidedly transitions customs to the ineffective glocks we we issued in the dessert states???

  • Ramon
  • CaptainDoc

    i have serious doubts that nyc is paying for this type of equipt. at $8.50 a round they spend lots at practice and it takes lots of training to shoot air to air, even then it will be a 50/50 chance of killing more on the ground than in the air. the range a .50 has from the air is quite impressive. we should just let nyc withdraw from the US and provide their own army and navy as they have lots of equipt. now. then we could bill them for anything we provide. how assinine can you get; auto weapons fired from the air for cities to rain down 300 grain bullets onto the public that pays for their protection.

    • orly?

      POP QUIZ:

      What was the AA defense of NYC during WWII?

      Garands and M1911s?

  • Shawn

    The NYPD has a long history of going up against non-criminal and unconventional threats to the City of New York. During World War Two, members of it’s Emergency Service Unit armed with elephant guns sat on top of the city’s bridges, ready to fire on any Nazi subs that came into New York Harbor.

  • jamesb

    Kelly update……NY Post 9/29/11
    In his first remarks about an attention-grabbing claim that police had the means to shoot down a terrorist plane, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said yesterday that the department could arm helicopters with .50-caliber guns to fire at small aircraft, not a commercial airliner.
    Kelly explained he was referring to crop-dusters that could be used to disperse anthrax or some other toxic material.
    The NYPD sent officers to Fort Dix, NJ, to train on shooting from aircraft so they could be armed with heavy machine guns, if necessary.
    “We didn’t want to be totally defenseless in a situation like that,” Kelly said yesterday.

    Read more:

  • Motive25

    I dunno- I kind of liked the image of a NYPD version of Dirty Harry with a Stinger. What a great bit of disinformation to deter terrorists that would be.

  • Leonidas

    That one about NYC cops being posted on bridges in the City during World War 2 to shoot at German U-boats is a myth. NYARNG troops were posted at locations believed in danger of sabotage. There was some police presence for law enforcement purposes, but protecting the City was the job of the Navy, which maintained extensive ASW defenses out in the Harbor and its approaches, and the Army, ashore.

  • Airwolf and Blue Thunder!!! That is all I got to add to this one!