Intersec January 2008

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Information about Intersec January 2008

Published on March 16, 2016

Author: MatthewWaltonKnight


1. 16 intersecJanuary2008 A irport perimeters are typically protected by fences designed to delineate land ownership and dissuade pedestrian access. Chain-link fences of various types are most commonly used for long-perimeters due to their low unit cost, but chain- link fences present a delay to pedestrian attack that is measured in seconds, and no delay to a vehicle attack. This is why in October 2003 a Ford Mustang was able to drive through a double perimeter fence at San Diego International Airport in California and cross an active runway. Vehicles have been used as weapon systems for decades. One of the earliest examples was on 16 September 1920, when the Italian anarchist Mario Buda drove a horse-drawn cart-bomb to the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street in New York and detonated it outside the offices of J P Morgan, killing 40 people. Today in Iraq and elsewhere in the world, suicide car bombs will be used, as they have been almost daily since the euphoria of Iraq’s liberation subsided. Together with Mikhail Kalashnikov’s rifle, the suicide car bomb now appears to be the weapon of choice for the anti-democracy terrorist. Thankfully, since 11 September 2001, the risk of an aircraft being attacked by passengers from within the cabin has been significantly reduced, as too has the risk of an attack on passengers within an airport terminal building. Although the terminal building at Glasgow Airport was attacked by a vehicle in June 2007, its mitigation system was successful at defeating the vehicle and the only casualty was the terrorist himself. But little has been done to mitigate the risk posed by vehicles attacking an aircraft while on the ground or during those precarious moments during the take-off sequence. The reason for a lack of aircraft protection may not be the technical difficulty. Protecting the airport is the responsibility of the airport owner. Yet protecting an aircraft and its passengers is primarily the responsibility of the aircraft operator. Internationally, Annex 17 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation gives guidance on safeguarding civil aviation against acts In light of the 2007 attack on Glasgow airport, Matthew Walton-Knight suggests that the next generation of terrorist attacks on aircraft will be from ground vehicles UNDER SIEGE

2. of unlawful interference. It requires governments to establish security programmes with their airport owners. In Europe, the European Civil Aviation Conference Document 30 Part Two guides the implementation of Europe- wide aviation security measures. In Britain, under both Common Law and Section Four of the Health and Safety at Work Act, airport owners have an obligation to provide – as far as reasonably practicable – safe premises for aircraft operations. But the cost of airport security in Britain is causing airport owners concern as, unlike road and rail security, airport security costs fall completely to airport owners. Terrorists have and will attack airports for they are high-value, target-rich environments – in March 1994 the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) attacked London’s Heathrow Airport. Pragmatically, there are four attack scenarios in which a vehicle with – or even without – an explosive device could easily attack an aircraft on the ground at an airport. In the first scenario, a vehicle bomb detonates in the vicinity of a moving or stationary aircraft. A line of stationary, fuelled and fully-laden passenger aircraft queuing to take-off presents a most attractive target to a terrorist intent on generating mass casualties. Thankfully this attack scenario has not yet been realised, but the effect of a close proximity detonation of even a small vehicle bomb on an aircraft would be catastrophic. In the second scenario, a vehicle could strike an aircraft where the particularly vulnerable components are: the undercarriage to trip-up the aircraft, or the engines to initiate a fire. In October 2000, a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 was taking off from Taipei Airport in Taiwan and struck stationary construction equipment and vehicles, killing 83 people on-board. An aircraft could also potentially swerve off the runway to avoid an attack vehicle. In July 2006, a Russian S7 Airbus A-310 skidded off the runway at Irkutsk Airport in Siberia and struck a building, killing 124 people on-board. Another hypothetical scenario could see an aircraft attempting to avoid a vehicle strike but hit debris – deliberately placed or not – from an attack vehicle. In July 2000, an Air France Concorde taking off from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport struck a small item of debris on the runway that was thrown-up, punctured a fuel tank and caused a fire. The aircraft crashed minutes later, killing all 109 people on aboard. Accepting that aircraft are highly vulnerable to terrorist attack when on the ground, there is much that can be done to mitigate this risk. But in order to progress, two principles must be acknowledged. Firstly, once an attack vehicle is within the secure airside perimeter of an airport, little can be done to restrain it. Airports are designed to give near complete freedom of movement for vehicles airside in order to allow aircraft movement and emergency response. Short of a significant armed engagement, effectively nothing can stop an attack vehicle once it is airside. The vehicle must be stopped prior to penetrating the airside perimeter. Secondly, the focus of any perimeter security system must be on the terrorist attacker, not on the security system. Many manufacturers promote impressive perimeter security systems, but this can easily move the focus away from the terrorist attacker to the security system. Sun Tzu reminds us that, “If you know yourself and your enemy, then you need not fear the result of a hundred battles; if you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory you will suffer a defeat.” In counter-terrorism, one defeat is one too many; the focus must remain on the terrorist attacker, not on the security system, to ensure “no defeats”. By focusing on the perimeter security system and not on the attacker, defences can easily become out of balance, in that they give differing levels of residual risk along the perimeter – the proverbial robust front gate but undefended tradesman’s entrance. This either provides a weakness that can be exploited by terrorists, or leads to uneconomic defences through the overprovision of protection in some areas. An ideal perimeter protective system should deliver similar levels of residual risk throughout its entire length. Halting an attack vehicle at the perimeter is difficult. Vehicles are able to breach many obstacles, especially when they are driven by determined terrorists with no intention of escape or indeed of their own survival. This means that the spectrum of risk mitigation solutions is limited, but still includes some fences, blocks, bollards, walls and ditches. But the perimeter engineering solution is only an element, one layer in the perimeter defences of an airport – all obstacles can be breached, given adequate time and resources. Securing a perimeter is not just a process of placing fences and barriers, nor of adding intruder detection systems and cameras to an existing perimeter fence. It involves the application of a methodology that allows the security team to understand – and ideally to adopt – the mindset of the terrorist attacker. Few outside the army or security services are educated to conceptualise in this manner and consequently there is value in using a military-style methodology for long- ©GettyImages 17 intersecJanuary2008

3. PEER REVIEW Eric Yap A qualification should be made on the airport perimeter security issue. While it is true that airport perimeters are generally protected by chain-link fences that are often complemented by several other layers of security (both passive and active systems) that need not necessarily be conspicuous. This is particularly true for major aviation centers which would naturally be high on value to terror groups. Examples of such airports in Asia would be Hong Kong International Airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport. My take is that terror groups have easier options to explore within an airport context than to penetrate through highly visible defences. Passenger terminals offer an extremely attractive target and like subways, it is almost impossible to check very person without bringing the system to a standstill. perimeter security. Airports are inviting high-value target-rich environments. If attacked they would give terrorists extensive media coverage, considerable political leverage and, depending on the strategy, potentially massive loss of life. There would also be significant financial and business continuity implications. Unquestionably, an attack on an airport would achieve the purpose of terrorism – to terrorise. Mitigation of the risk posed by a vehicle attack on an aircraft while on the ground at an airport should be a priority. It is the logical next form of terrorist attack our air transportation networks will face. Although the primary onus lies with aircraft operators, airport owners have an obligation to ensure their airports are safe and secure. Effective mitigation strategies will focus on defeating the terrorist attacker at or before he penetrates the airside perimeter, rather than on constructing potentially nugatory perimeter security systems. Attack vehicles must be prevented from penetrating the perimeter, for once inside their effect would be catastrophic. A vehicle attack would be highly effective for a terrorist and, with the perimeter defences currently found on most airports, it is easy to achieve. Regrettably, unless aircraft operators and airport owners are more proactive at risk mitigation, a vehicle attack on an aircraft at an airport is now just a matter of time. intersecJanuary2008 18 i UNDER SIEGE The 2007 Glasgow Airport attack was thwarted by effective perimeter security but the threat remains ©GettyImages Matthew Walton-Knight CEng PMP works for MMM Group in Vancouver, Canada. He previously served in the British Army’s Corps of Royal Engineers and worked for Arup Security Consulting. If you have any questions or comments about this article, please email us:

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