Are there countries which post-9/11 have adopted legislation allowing the shoot-down of passenger aircraft under any circumstances ?

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    $\begingroup$ I doubt any legislation is needed. The military of most (perhaps all) countries can shoot down anything they like within their rules of engagement. Authority to act outside the rules of engagement needs only the say-so of a suitably senior general or politician. $\endgroup$
    – user33770
    Jan 7, 2019 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you think any legislation is needed? That is exactly what the United States was going to do to flight 93, even though the F-16 was unarmed, she was ordered not to let it hit Washington. The only reason it didn't happen is that the passengers did it before the Air Force could. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 7, 2019 at 3:24
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry but both statements above are wrong. In countries governed by the rule of law you cannot rightfully violate the law. Nobody is above the law, not even the military, police, politicians or ministers. (Example: They murder someone on the street, they'll get prosecuted.) What the military can and cannot do is codified by law. The Constitution is part of a country's legal framework. You can't shoot down innocent passengers from the air if its against constitutional law to kill people (which is standard). Permission to kill citizens has to be granted by law. Otherwise it's not a nation of law $\endgroup$
    – summerrain
    Jan 7, 2019 at 4:04
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    $\begingroup$ Why are you even asking the question if you are saying that some semi-answers by others are wrong? $\endgroup$ Jan 7, 2019 at 4:33
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    $\begingroup$ You might get a better response on law.SE. The aviation aspect of this question is minor compared to the legal and political ones, in my opinion. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jan 7, 2019 at 4:40

1 Answer 1


Yes it's legal in some countries/locations.

In the US after Sept-11 Operation Noble Eagle expanded the US Air Force's role to providing air defense for the entire US domestic airspace. Flying into a Special Flight Rules Area (or whatever they are calling it this week!) such as that over Washington DC and or into the even more restrictive Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area Flight Restricted Zone (DC FRZ) without adhering to the Zone's rules and failing to respond to communications and intercept protocol can (in theory) result in being shot down. The DoD (understandably) doesn't reveal details on the exact rules of engagement or who has the authority to order such an action (believed to be POTUS, Sec. Def and Deputy Sec. Def) but it's definitely possible (and legal), and they've come close. While the near-downing in the link was for a private aircraft the same rules would allow for the shooting down of a hijacked commercial aircraft.

Internationally speaking.. well it's a grey area. As discussed in this paper there is no International Law that specifically prohibits doing so - although it's generally seen as a bad thing to do except as a last resort. So as Ron Beyer mentioned in a comment, there generally doesn't need to be any legislation enacted to do so - because there isn't any that prevents it.

  • $\begingroup$ "there is no International Law that specifically prohibits doing so", what is an "international law"? Laws are country defined (except EU "regulations"). There are treaties though. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jan 8, 2019 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @mins Wikipedia does not agree with you. $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2019 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DanilaSmirnov: You have a point, but "International treaty law comprises obligations states expressly and voluntarily accept between themselves in treaties" and "International law is consent-based governance. This means that a state member may choose to not abide by international law, and even to break its treaty." They apply to governments and are bilateral/multilateral. Treaties are not comparable to ordinary laws, as there is no possible prosecution: Immunity from prosecution $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jan 10, 2019 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ @mins while I don't disagree that the way international "law" works isn't a direct equivalent to ordinary laws and that really it's just another name for a treaty it's still a commonly used term, there is still precedent for prosecutions and it felt relevant to the question IMHO $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2019 at 9:13

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