How accurate is the white house siege in the film "Olympus Has Fallen"?
June 28, 2013 7:34 PM   Subscribe

I read online that the director did a lot of research and consulted with military experts on how an actual terrorist siege on the white house could work. Of course, he also said that white house security experts have already planned for such an attack. I'm curious what would have been done differently in real life by the white house and DC security?
posted by Wanderer7 to Society & Culture (10 answers total)
 
From the trailer, the terrorists are flying what appears to be an AC-130 Spectre. This is American military hardware they couldn't easily access. This aircraft is a very slow- and low-flying gunship meant to provide close ground support -- but only gets used when the U.S. military has achieved air superiority, because it's a very vulnerable target due to its speed and mission and complete lack of stealth capability.

The Secret Service, on the other hand, is equipped with surface-to-air missiles, such as the FIM-92 Stinger, which would make short work of a Spectre, which they would see coming from very far away because of both their own radar and the fact that Reagan National airport is right across the river.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:59 PM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Consulted with military experts" likely means the government collaborated on the film in order to make sure it was a propaganda vehicle that said exactly what they wanted it to say and showed the US military in only a 1000% positive light. This is pretty common these days- it's factual they collaborated and had script approval on ZERO DARK THIRTY among other movies.

As noted above, the entire premise is utterly absurd and no rogue aircraft would ever get anywhere near DC airspace.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:54 PM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The gunship used in the initial attack does indeed look like an AC-130, but its armament has been sexed up to have dual gatling-style machine guns on either side. These seemed to have been operated with some sort of advanced fire controls because one of the crew on the flight deck operated them with the joystick and they were highly accurate. In the real AC-130 all of the guns are operated by gunners, and are only on one side of the aircraft since it's designed to make long orbits of targets from far above, not low strafing runs to kill on either side of a street.
posted by planetesimal at 8:56 PM on June 28, 2013


(And, further to the AC-130, if I were to explain it away to be remotely plausible I'd say it was some kind of modified regular C-130 that was never USAF (or at least was sold from the USAF to a third party air force before the terrorists got it), but only had an C-130 livery with the hidden machine guns.)
posted by planetesimal at 9:00 PM on June 28, 2013


I heard from a reliable source that there is no less than an underground battalion which can access tunnels within the grounds of the White House, which would of been deployed in seconds upon an intrusion. He described it as "a thousand plus ants leaving the mound, armed to the teeth". Seemed plausible to me- all things considered.

I am pretty sure they have that place "buttoned" down for such events... hence the reason no group has ever tried it.
posted by bkeene12 at 9:10 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Vietnam-era predecessors of Spooky/Spectre were equipped with gatling guns which would shower a football-field sized area with rounds-- to not be hit, you had to be lucky. So says one of my teachers, a bona fide Navy Seal from that era.

Also, Stinger versus C-130 would be a short battle, but not an instant win. Stinger has a small warhead that would seek the engine, and the C-130 can afford to lose at least 2 engines, and thus three or more Stingers may be needed. Stinger is also a heat-seeker, and C-130 has a spectacular flare countermeasure system (15 seconds-- watch this if you've never seen the Angel Flares) for fooling heat-seeking missiles. Sure, the stinger might rip into a wing fuel tank, but also maybe not. Hopefully they have better missiles for that sort of job.

I disagree that "Consulted with military experts" is necessarily a propaganda channel for the military; it's very common for movies to consult with experts on the military, usually retired servicemen who are connected with the industry and are sticklers for accuracy. The famous R. Lee Ermey, who played the sadistic Drill Sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket," has made his career on this sort of employment, in addition to his acting.

I'm sure when there's official participation by the military, they do want things to look positive, but official participation not ubiquitous, and maybe not common. Generally the military picks its projects, and when the subject is a factual event and the filmmakers want accuracy (which, let's face it, is completely the exception when it comes to factual basis for a movie), it's in their interest to get the military working with them. The military just says "no thanks" to projects when the portrayal doesn't flatter them.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:41 PM on June 28, 2013


Hopefully they have better missiles for that sort of job.

Further reading shows that yes, yes they do.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:57 PM on June 28, 2013


Also, Stinger versus C-130 would be a short battle, but not an instant win. Stinger has a small warhead that would seek the engine, and the C-130 can afford to lose at least 2 engines, and thus three or more Stingers may be needed. Stinger is also a heat-seeker, and C-130 has a spectacular flare countermeasure system (15 seconds-- watch this if you've never seen the Angel Flares) for fooling heat-seeking missiles. Sure, the stinger might rip into a wing fuel tank, but also maybe not. Hopefully they have better missiles for that sort of job.

They are also high bypass turbo prop engines which means that a LOT of cool ambient air is mixed with the jet exhaust and it is swirling very rapidly. The little seeker you can fit on a man portable system is optimized for the kind of engine you find on bombers/fighters which is MUCH hotter. Not too sure how good a lock on from a stinger would be on this kind of engine (btw the same problem exists for firing stingers at airliners).
posted by bartonlong at 9:59 PM on June 28, 2013


Btw, modern Stingers use both IR and UV seeking systems. Much more accurate than they used to be in the 80s.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:13 PM on June 28, 2013


I haven't seen the film. But 9/11 showed us, the response of the government to unknown aircraft miles out, not responding to calls to move off, is to get the protectees out of the building. Its less of a fortress than a tunnel. In wartime the President's defense is mobility and fighter jets protecting his aircraft.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:46 AM on June 29, 2013


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