Air marshals want less powerful bulletsAir marshals want less powerful bullets
IAN BRUCE June 14 2006
FEDERAL air marshals in the US have been issued with "Dirty Harry" Magnum ammunition so powerful that it could bring down the civilian airliners they are hired to protect.
The .357 bullets are not only capable of passing through the body of a hijacker, but could also kill people standing or sitting behind him and still have enough velocity to breach the pressurised fuselage of the jet or damage hydraulic systems.
A delegation of marshals is now giving evidence to the US congressional judiciary committee in the hope that the system can be made safer.
They have requested the same type of "frangible" rounds carried by Israeli air marshals on El Al flights. These are low-velocity bullets designed to break up on impact while causing maximum damage to a hijacker.
Don Strange, formerly the agent in charge of the Federal Air Marshal Service's hub office in Atlanta, said yesterday that while full-power rounds were ideal for the US secret service and other law enforcement agencies, they were a potentially catastrophic risk in an aircraft.
The White House ordered the formation of an air marshal service to deter hijackers soon after the September 11 attacks in 2001.