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Fighter jets scrambled after crash

By Chris Plante
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Military fighter planes across the United States were ordered into the sky following the crash Monday morning of an American Airlines jet in New York, senior defense officials said.

Armed F-15 Eagles were already patrolling the skies over New York when flight 587 crashed, officials said. News of the disaster sparked the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to scramble jets already on alert at a number of other bases around the country.

The jets were scrambled as a precaution, said officials, would not name the bases from which the aircraft were launched. About 28 bases nationwide have been maintaining armed fighter jets on 15-minute alert since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The jets are on "strip alert," meaning they standing by on airstrips with pilots waiting in nearby buildings, ready to run to the jets and be airborne within moments.

The pilots are authorized to shoot down planes, including U.S. commercial airliners, only under the most extreme of circumstances if the planes pose a threat.

Combat air patrols have been maintained over New York, Washington and other locations since September 11.


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