By Rocco Parascandola, Joseph Straw and Corky Siemaszko
The NYPD has enough firepower to bring down a crop duster but probably not a jet airliner, a key police source says.
"It's not surface to air missiles or a weapon that has rockets," the source said Monday.
Instead, the city's air defenses are calibrated to take down a much more modest target.
"What was envisioned was a small aircraft ... coming down the Hudson," the source said.
"Al Qaeda was talking about targeting the West using crop dusters. There was a specific concern about using this type of aerial spraying of anthrax and some other biological chemicals. That also led to plans to equip our aircraft."
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, in a "60 Minutes" interview Sunday, answered in the affirmative when asked if the "NYPD has the means to take down an aircraft."
"I prefer not to get into the details, but obviously this would be in a very extreme situation," Kelly answered.
There was speculation he meant a jetliner, like the ones that took down the twin towers. The source suggested that's not the case.
The Daily News first reported the revamping of the NYPD's aviation fleet in 2005.
The source confirmed that what the paper reported then still holds: The city has Agusta 119 helicopters armed with .50-caliber semiautomatic rifles that could blast moving boats, planes or tractor-trailers from hundreds of yards away.
Mayor Bloomberg said the NYPD has other capabilities specifically designed to derail an aerial terror attack: "The New York City Police Department has lots of capabilities that you don't know about and won't know about," he said.
U.S. military and government officials declined comment on whether the NYPD has the authority to blast planes from the sky, but Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) said what the NYPD has is "absolutely essential."
"Local law enforcement has to provide national defense, and that started on Sept. 11," King said.