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NYPD May Use .50-Caliber Rifles As Part Of Anti-Terror Capabilities

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City's top cop shocked everyone recently by admitting the NYPD could shoot down a plane.

On Monday, CBS 2's Lou Young got an explosive, first look at the very weapon that could do it.

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It's extreme security, for an extreme situation.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly may have been referring to several semi-automatic versions of the massive .50-caliber rifle when he spoke of the NYPD's ability to take down an aircraft. It's a weapon that can do the job.

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The subject came up Sunday night on "60 Minutes."

"I mean in an extreme situation you would have some means to take down a plane," Kelly told Scott Pelley, who then asked straight out if the NYPD has that capability. "Yes. I prefer not to get into the details but obviously this would be in a very extreme situation," Kelly said.

.50-caliber rifle
May this be the NYPD's weapon of choice to shoot at potentiall hijacked planes? It's a .50-caliber rifle. (Photo: CBS 2)

The weapon -- a Barrett l-82 A-1 -- fires its heavy projectiles accurately up to two miles. Anti-aircraft rounds come in two types. The silver tip is for a cockpit windscreen and blunter hollow-point is for piercing an aircraft skin or engine.

Planning experts presume any plane it shot at would be stationary on a tarmac or taxiing prior to take-off.

"Usually in a hostage or a barricade situation on a tarmac in an isolated area the use of that weapon could be quite effective, but in a populated area with a plane coming down and certainly with the target moving the way it would be this would be a dangerous event," security expert Harvey Kushner said.

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Although other departments in the area have these guns for use from the ground sources tell Young only the NYPD trains its marksmen to shoot from helicopters as the military does. The police commissioner said New York can't always wait for help.

"Were the number one terrorist target on this country. That's the consensus of the Intelligence community. We're the communications capital. We're the financial capital. We're a city that's been attacked twice successfully. We've had 13 terrorist plots against the city since 9/11. No other city has had that," Kelly said.

The weapon is 30 pounds of unbalanced unwieldy metal. In an aircraft the barrel would have to be supported by a sling. The NYPD has roughly a dozen marksmen trained in the use of the .50-caliber.

The 50 caliber rifles are effective, but they aren't cheap. Even with bulk discounts, the weapons can cost upwards of $8,000 apiece.

Kelly's bombshell revelation comes on the heels of him speaking exclusively with CBS 2's Marcia Kramer about other gadgets the NYPD has at its disposal, including its own 1,000-man army, light-armored battle vehicles and the capability to use a submarine.

Kelly has also made it clear he wants more NYPD officers as soon as possible.

What do you think of this claim by Commissioner Kelly? Sound off in our comments section below…

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