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Training tip: Tactical options for SWAT making a ‘tubular assault’


In this Urban Shield drill, participating teams were given the option to approach this 727 (provided by FedEx) in a protoype vehicle provided by Blackwater Worldwide.


There are a couple tactical options that tend to be overlooked in the planning stages of a tubular assault. SWAT commanders seem to focus on the entry point of the plane and the close proximity of innocent hostages – which is a legitimate concern.

However, it’s important to consider a couple of key tactical options:

Sniper-initiated assault

This is a great option if the hostage takers routinely peer out the window from the aircraft cock pit. Here’s the drawback, your snipers need to have training data on aircraft glass barriers before they initiate the shot. Training your snipers with aircraft glass is mandatory before you deploy that tactic. They must shoot various rounds and angles so that they know their dope with this shot.


If the sniper-initiated assault isn’t an option, then diversion is critical. Consider deploying smoke to provide concealment as the tactical team makes their approach. Deploying smoke around the aircraft for long periods of time before the assault kicks off will keep the terrorist guessing when the actual entry will be made.

Then use of a hovering helicopter – well above the grounded aircraft – while the smoke is deployed before the entry and during the entry will also provide some cover noise. Lastly, try and incorporate a ruse with the actual entry plan.

The use of armored vehicles driving around and away into the distance – with no discernible objective – may make the terrorist(s) think they’re safe for the time being as the entry team slips into position.

As with any hostage rescue, the stakes are high and training is paramount.

This tip, originally published 08/12/2014, has been updated with current information.

Glenn French, a retired Sergeant with the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Police Department, has 24 years police experience and served as the Team Commander for the Special Response Team, and supervisor of the Sterling Heights Police Department Training Bureau. He has 16 years SWAT experience and also served as a Sniper Team Leader, REACT Team Leader, and Explosive Breacher.

Contact Glenn French.