Today, a Ryanair flight from Lithuania to London Luton was the subject of a presumed hoax, and had some form of security alert. In the incident, it was diverted to Stansted, while being escorted by fighter jets.

What would the escort actually achieve? My best guess is to shoot it down in case of a hijacking, but this seems like a particularly grim prospect and perhaps maybe not one that would be so publicly on display. Is there another reason why it might have been escorted?


1 Answer 1


There are multiple reasons:

  1. Yes, they'll shoot the aircraft down if deemed necessary. It is a grim prospect, but sometimes grim events require grim responses - there is little doubt that many lives would have been saved had the 9/11 aircraft been shot down prior to them hitting the WTC's.

  2. It's a threat and a show of force. Not all hijackers / criminals / terrorists are keen on the idea of losing their life. For those, the threat of being shot down can contain the situation and give some control. If nothing else, being shot down would prevent their political message from getting out - you can't really negotiate the release of prisoners (Or whatever) if you're dead on a blown up plane.

  3. The fighters can get up close and personal with the aircraft. This allows them to see it, see inside and potentially communicate with people on board. During an event where the situation is unclear they may be able to report whether the aircraft is under control and/or command of the pilots.

  4. There are internationally recognised intercept signals that a fighter jet can perform - using lights and motion (Rocking wings etc). This will allow them to pass instructions to an aircraft with no radio capability.

  • $\begingroup$ Additionally, escort aircraft can assist the crew of the aircraft. NASA used to have T-38 aircraft escort the shuttle during the final part of landing. This was essentially to provide external views and judgement to the shuttle crew. They would call out altitudes and such. The same could be useful to a potentially damaged aircraft, or injured crew. $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ Also the ground would get immediate knowledge on what the aircraft was doing, or if it became damaged in some way. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 19:22

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