By Benton K. Partin, Brigadier General, United States Air Force (Ret)
When we have an aircraft incident like TWA-800, with massive casualties and never-ending grief, there is also massive empathy and massive concern about how it happened and what has to be done to preclude a repeat performance, or something else even more horrible. There must be no cover-up, and a full spectrum of applicable technology must be brought to bear on identifying the cause and providing solutions.
The victims, the American people and those people all around the world, flying American designed and manufactured aircraft have a right to know the truth. All of those people involved in aircraft development, operations, maintenance and security have an urgent need to know the truth. After an 18 month investigation under the dominant control of the FBI, and after the expenditure of over $100 million, the American people still do not know what really happened other than some vague "mechanical failure" that resulted in the near empty center wing fuel tank blowing up in a most improbable manner - directionally - "forward to the right and down."
On October 4, 1996, seven weeks after the TWA incident, I sent a fax to the chief TWA-800 investigator in New York. The fax stated as follows:
"I did the initial design, development, and test of the first several continuous-rod warheads for the MOMARC missile in the 1956-7 time period. This was done at the Ballistic Research Labs at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. I carried several to Socorro, New Mexico for testing in a special arena nearby.
"A proximity fused, continuous-rod (CR) missile warhead is the only target destruction system I know that would be consistent with all damage assessment information I have seen in the open media.
"The destructive mechanism is unique to that type of warhead. You would not see blast or blast-frag damage. Neither would you see residuals from explosives. The instantaneous kill is unique to that warhead type, The CR warhead is the most difficult to perfect even with many design iterations.
"I would encourage you to have someone reassess the recovered structure who is familiar with the unique structural kill of a CR warhead.
"If I can be of any help, let me know."
The fax also included a brief resume that contained my special training and extensive work experience in relevant areas. I received no reply. Few people in this country would have been more qualified to make the above assessment.
After another 16 months of apparent obfuscation and misrepresentation of the facts, I believe it could have been stated then and can be stated now, with a high level of confidence that TWA-800 was shot down by a surface to air missile with a continuous rod warhead. Moreover, there is much circumstantial evidence that the shoot down may have had a foreign origin.
WHAT HAPPENED TO TWA-800?
With all the plethora of information available on TWA-800, one needs to "separate the wheat from the chaff' to see the naked truth. There is only a very limited set of information one needs to know and understand what happened to TWA-800. Other information either corroborates or obfuscates. The short list is as follows:
1. The testimony of the former Air National Guard pilot, Major Frederick Meyer. He is probably the most qualified witness, who observed the disaster from the very beginning.
2. The guidance, control and fusing systems for all weather surface-to-air missiles.
3. The terminal ballistics of continuous-rod warheads.
4. The two-page spread picture of the reassembled aircraft fuselage in the hangar on Long Island that was published May 11, 1997 in the New York Times Magazine, and,
5. Engineering knowledge of aircraft stability and control, aircraft structures and flight dynamics. The incident metallurgical reports and distribution array of the debris are also helpful.
Major Meyer's Testimony
I have discussed in excruciating detail, with Major Meyers, what he saw. He was airborne, headed toward the scene of the incident and was searching for reported nearby traffic. He observed a missile ascending from the surface, arching in a vertical plane near his line of sight and then making a small change in direction to the left of that vertical plane as it reached it's maximum altitude.
He then saw the unmistakable brilliant white flash of a high-explosive warhead. Major Meyer was a Vietnam veteran who had flown rescue missions up north and had witnessed surface to air missiles in action. He then saw a second explosion that grew into a descending fireball that later erupted into a massive fuel explosion.
Guidance, Control and Fusing
Surface-to-air missiles designed for all weather conditions, operate on longer wavelengths than the small infrared seeking missiles which are, generally, only useful in visual target acquisition modes. Whereas, a small infrared seeking missile may have a circular error probable (CEP - radius of a circle around the aim point that would contain one-half of the hits) on the order of three feet, the CEP for an all weather missile may be ten times as large, ie, 30 to 40 feet.
An all weather missile could be command guided or use automatic terminal homing with active or semi-active radar, a beacon, a transponder, a carrier wave or some combination thereof A compatible 360 degree fuse sensor would provide proximity fusing.
Continuous-Rod Warhead Terminal Ballistics
If an enemy aircraft, carrying an atomic weapon, is headed toward an aircraft carrier or a city, it would be desirable to terminate the strike mission as quickly and as decisively as possible under all weather conditions. To do this the continuous-rod warhead is the only non-nuclear unitary warhead that can produce instant catastrophic structural failure compatible with all weather guidance accuracy. High explosive, fragmenting warheads have a relatively small envelope for structural kills and only punching holes may give the strike mission time to get over target.
The CR warhead cut on the right side of the aircraft was so far behind the wing faring leading edge that one would also expect damage to the right inboard fuel tank and possibly the cut off of the inner end of the leading edge slat. The right side cannot be seen, but one would expect similar damage depending on how much the missile was off bottom center.
The continuous-rod warhead was close enough to the aircraft for the warhead blast to dimple the fuselage skin between the stringers on the bottom of the forward cabin section. This also accounts for the front-wheel doors being blown inward into the wheel well. The dimpling between the stringers ends at the leading edge of the wing faring because the shockwave was dissipated by the faring which was torn away. Skin blast damage is more severe further forward under the second deck.
The maximum blast seen by the aircraft would have been forward of the cut and on the fuselage bottom. Forward because of the tilt of the plane of the cut and because of the forward cone angle of the continuous-rod projection, due to missile velocity and the direction of the detonation wave in contact with the rods at the time of detonation. The warhead's end effect blast would also contribute to the blast forward of the cut.
Engineering Knowledge and Aircraft Stability and Control
The aircraft was in a climb mode at the time the CR warhead cut through the fuselage. There were five major forces acting on the forward fuselage section:
1. Warhead blast impulse from below (peak pressure was probably on the order of 10 psi).
2. Cabin pressurization forcing the fore and aft fuselage sections apart (about 5 psi integrated over the cross-sectional area).
3. Some body lift because of climb angle and aerodynamic drag.
4. Inertial reactive forces, particularly from the upper deck and overhead storage regions above the warhead blast area (many times the force of gravity).
5. Depending on the time the center wing tank blew, it could also have contributed to the separation.
With the above array of forces acting, the forward cabin section would have quickly separated forward and up while stripping off the top skin above the cut and back over the wing. This is why there is no soot in front of the CR warhead cut. The second break in the fuselage, about 20 feet ahead of the CR warhead cut, is due to outside blast from below and vertical accordion-like collapse of the side walls is due to inertial forces from the upper deck and overhead baggage. The severely damaged weak section, containing both cabin doors in front of the wing, would have disintegrated.
The break across the fuselage, in front of the second cabin door, almost appears as another CR warhead cut. We know it separated at both points because of the ground debris pattern. The cut closest to the wing was the first separation because of the evident explosive decompression petaling. The vertical collapse of the section under the upper deck with blast from below, and downward inertial forces from above, can fully account for the second lateral separation across the fuselage.
The damage to the section with the door is a continuum of the damage under the upper deck. Therefore, that damage under the upper deck had to be part of the initial breakup in the air - not ocean surface impact.
With the rapid departure of everything in front of the CR warhead cut, the aft-end of the remaining part of the aircraft would have violently rotated downward. This is like two kids on a well-balanced seesaw - when one jumps off the other one bumps his bottom.
All modeling exercises and artist conceptions showing anything but a violent downward rotation of the tail section are absolute folly. As the tail rotates downward, the angle of attack quickly increases and both wing tips snap off at their weakest point - just outboard of the outboard engines.
As the angle of attack continues to increase toward the vertical, the main wing span breaks at its maximum stress point within the center wing tank. This break would be in the direction at the top of the wing, with the top of the wing in compression. The top of the center wing tank thus failed in compression, the bottom in tension. The wings then broke free from the remaining fuselage. When the wing spans broke, there would have been a massive and violent exposure of fuel which resulted in the larger descending and disintegrating fuel blast.
The second explosion seem by Major Meyers would most probably have been the center wing tank.
Diversionary Investigative "Evidence"
Throughout the TWA-800 incident, some investigation reports given to the media tended to put blinders on what really happened. The following are typical examples:
1. It was reported that TWA-800 could not have been brought down by a missile because all four engines had been recovered and none showed missile damage. A reasonable statement if there were only small infrared guided missiles to be considered.
2. All observers were grouped into one specious category - all witnesses had only seen what happened after the center wing tank exploded.
3. The missile expert from China Lake concluded that no contact fused missile hit the aircraft. That is not an inclusive conclusion.
4. The inability of the investigation to establish missile intercept is a clear indication of another coverup. Across the nation, there have been many reports of a TV showing of the missile intercept very soon after the incident. Employees state that it was shown on the NY-1 cable system that serves two to three million homes. According the NY-1 employees, the FBI confiscated the video after two showings.
FRIENDLY FIRE OR AN ACT OF FOREIGN TERRORISTS?The Friendly Fire diversion had its origin in Moscow - not Paris. Christopher Story in his Soviet Analyst special report dated June 5, 1997, traced the origin of the friendly fire diversion story back to Moscow ten days after the TWA-800 shoot down.
The long planned G-7+1 meeting in Paris immediately after the TWA-800 incident was devoted to global organized crime and terrorism. According to the same issue of Soviet Analyst, "one of the main outcomes of that summit was an agreement that all participants - including, of course, Russia - would have access to each other's organized crime and terrorism files. This means that soviet intelligence gained a window into the files of the FBI." Is this all for a new "global justice system?"
In Australia, Martin Bryant went out on a Sunday afternoon in April 1996 and killed 35 people and wounded 19. The media used this to help traumatize the nation, and in two weeks, legislation was introduced to disarm the Australians. During the year-long gun confiscation and buy-back program, gun crime actually increased 13 percent. The question is, did the real perpetrators of the TWA-800 shoot down, the bombing in Oklahoma, the bombing of the New York Trade Center, and the bombing in Saudi Arabia have ultimately complementary objectives? They all have either the marks of International State-sponsored terrorism or a counter-terrorism sting operation, with agents provocateurs, either gone bad or planned like a train wreck.
Benton K. Partin
Brigadier General USAF (Ret)
October 4, 1996
To: NTSB TWA-800
I did the initial design, development, and test of the first several continuous rod warheads for the BOMARC missile in the 1956-7 time period. This was done at the Ballistic Research Labs at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. I carried several to Socorro, New Mexico for testing in a special arena nearby.
A proximity fused, continuous rod (CR) missile warhead is the only target destruction system I know that would be consistent with all damage assessment information I have seen in the open media.
The destructive mechanism is unique to that type of warhead. You would not see blast or blast-frag damage. Neither would you see residuals from explosives. The instantaneous kill is unique to that warhead type. The CR war-head is the most difficult to perfect even with many design iterations.
I would encourage you to have someone reassess the recovered structure who is familiar with the unique structural kill of a CR warhead.
If I can be of any help, let me know.