Operation Gotham Shield

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Operation Gotham Shield
Part of National Exercise Program
Type exercise
Date 23 April 2017 (2017-04-23)
Executed by Federal Emergency Management Agency

Operation Gotham Shield was a 2017 exercise conducted by the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which tested civil defense response capabilities to a nuclear weapons attack against New York City.


Operation Gotham Shield imagined a nuclear detonation at the New Jersey-side entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel (pictured).

Operation Gotham Shield occurred over the course of four days, from April 23 to April 27, 2017, and was part of FEMA's National Exercise Program.[1]

The operation involved the hypothetical ground burst of a nuclear device at the New Jersey-side entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, resulting in "hundreds of thousands" of killed and injured persons and 4.5 million refugees from the initial blast and subsequent fallout.[2][3][4]

Due to the location of the simulated attack, the operation scenario assumed the disablement or destruction of FEMA's Region II Regional Response Coordination Center[a] which required transfer of command functions to the Region V Regional Response Coordination Center.[b][1] In the final phases of the exercise, a hypothetical "massive influx" of refugees from the attack "overwhelmed" the resources of neighboring states.[1]

Participating agencies

In addition to FEMA, other agencies and organizations which participated in the exercise included the Morris County Office of Emergency Management, the New Jersey National Guard, the Military Auxiliary Radio System, the Metro Urban Search and Rescue Strike Team, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the FBI, the New Jersey State Police, various municipal departments of the City of New York, and others.[1][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Brig. Gen. Timothy LaBarg (left) speaks with Col. Todd Daniel (right) during Ardent Sentry 17, a military-led partner exercise to the civil Operation Gotham Shield.

Other activities

Gotham Shield occurred simultaneous with several partnered exercises testing the responsiveness of different agencies of the United States in the fulfillment of their own organizational priorities as they would apply to the core attack scenario, including Vibrant Response (led by United States Army North), Prominent Hunt 17-1 (led by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office), and Fuerzas Amigas (a joint planning event of the Mexican Armed Forces and United States Armed Forces).[11]

Ardent Sentry 17 (led by the Northern Command), was another simultaneous operation which focused on military aid to the civil power, specifically "marshalling simulated forces".[13] Ardent Sentry 17 was a command post exercise with staff operating from a primary command post at the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters in Troy, and a redundancy command post at the New York National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Latham.[13] It was overseen by GEN Timothy LaBarge of the New York National Guard who was given "dual status command", or authority to command both State of New York and United States military forces.[13]

Meanwhile, Canada conducted an overlapping exercise, Staunch Maple 17, whose scenario involved simultaneous "nuclear threats" in Ottawa and Halifax, and which also involved the friendly intervention of U.S. military forces into eastern Canada.[14][15][16] Unlike Gotham Shield, Canada's Department of National Defence did not publicly describe the scenario around which Staunch Maple 17 was based, but media outlets would later cite sources who confirmed it involved a "nuclear event" and was a test of scaled contingency plans the country had involving "a wide range of scenarios involving attacks on Canada, including a missile attack."[14][16]

Conspiracy theories

Operation Gotham Shield was billed as a "false flag" by some conspiracy theorists, who predicted it was designed to cover-up a planned, actual nuclear weapons attack against the New York Metropolitan Area, or as distraction from a planned U.S. nuclear weapons attack against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.[17][18] The British tabloid Daily Express, meanwhile, propagated a different take on the conspiracy theory which hypothesized that "a major incident will happen to US President Donald Trump on Wednesday" (the date of the first day of Gotham Shield).[19]

See also


  1. ^ FEMA's Region II is responsible for New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and eight tribal nations.[5]
  2. ^ FEMA's Region V is normally responsible for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d "GOTHAM SHIELD LEVEL 1 EXERCISE" (PDF). usda.gov. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  2. ^ "Feds prep for nuclear attack in NJ". WNYW-TV. April 26, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Public Health Actions to Prepare for an Effective Radiological/Nuclear Response" (PDF). cdc.gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  4. ^ "FEMA National Advisory Council May 2017 Meeting Minutes NAC" (PDF). fema.gov. FEMA. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  5. ^ "Region II". fema.gov. FEMA. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  6. ^ "Region V". fema.gov. FEMA. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  7. ^ "New Jersey agencies participate in FEMA's 'Gotham Shield' nuclear attack drill". news12.com. News 12 New Jersey. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  8. ^ "NJ Army National Guard Supports Gotham Shield Aerial Survey Of NYC". fema.gov. FEMA. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  9. ^ "Upcoming Army MARS Communication Exercises Highlighted at Regional Conference". arrl.org. American Radio Relay League. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  10. ^ Hochran, Adam (April 24, 2017). "An explosion at the NYC tunnels?". WKXW-FM. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  11. ^ a b "Understanding the Office of Intelligence, Security, and Emergency Response (S-60)". transportation.gov. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  12. ^ Kanzler, Kaitlyn (April 24, 2017). "Federal, state agencies testing readiness for nuclear attack". northjersey.com. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  13. ^ a b c "Emergency-Response Training in Ardent Sentry 17" (PDF). Guard Times Magazine. Spring 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  14. ^ a b "N.S. hosts nuclear emergency exercise". Chronicle Herald. April 24, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  15. ^ "Military helicopters to fly low across Nova Scotia this week, including American Black Hawk". Metro. April 24, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  16. ^ a b Brewster, Murray (November 30, 2017). "Canada, U.S. held joint exercises simulating nuclear attack on both sides of border". MSN. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  17. ^ LaCapria, Kim. "What is Operation Gotham Shield?". snopes.com. Snopes. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  18. ^ Faife, Corin (April 25, 2017). "Reddit's Conspiracy Theorists Think World War III Will Begin Today". Vice. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  19. ^ "Shock radio broadcast sparks fears Donald Trump will be attacked on WEDNESDAY". Daily Express. April 24, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 

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