Friday, October 7, 2011

Model airplanes in the hands of terrorists?

Most guys remember building model airplanes, especially if you are in the Senior set.  Maybe even some gals.  It was fun seeing the model come to life as you added the pieces of balsa wood with pins to hold them in place.  You probably had a Xacto knife for the precision work of cutting the pieces.  And when the body was ready, it was time to apply the paper fuselage and administer a liquid covering that would both protect and make the paper taut. 

You were finished, and then many of us hung the plane somewhere in our room so that we could marvel over our accomplishment.  Others put together a rubber band mechanism during construction of the body that, when wound tightly, would keep the model airborne for a short period of time.  Never once did I think that in the later development of this concept, some deranged individual would come up with the idea to place explosives inside to make it a terrorist weapon.

Of course, in those days there was no terrorism, at least as we know it today.  We had wars but they were fought on the ground, in the air and at sea, away from America.  Terrorism has brought the war to the United States, and it is something we are finding hard to come to grips with.  In 2008, Time Magazine reported that George W. Bush had spent $1 trillion fighting terrorism.  I am sure President Obama is currently spending at least at a similar rate.

And then recently some unhinged guy from Boston was arrested and accused of plotting to bomb the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon with a remote-controlled model airplane loaded with explosives.  Just the latest Jihad against America, a mujahid bent on destruction.  These are not the same balsa wood models we’re used to building, according to the FBI.  These are “military-jet replicas, 5 feet to 7 1/2 feet long, guided by GPS devices and capable of speeds over 100 mph.”

The feds have known about this for a while and are keeping their eyes open, obviously.  And some counter-terrorism experts and model airplane hobbyists say it would be near-impossible for Rezwan Ferdaus, the culprit, to do serious damage.  Others say that serious damage is possible but that it would be difficult to achieve.  However, the flying of these models into federal buildings isn’t the only problem here.  The larger challenge is keeping up with the new methods used to wreak havoc by the terrorists.

 The two planes planned for use by Ferdaus were the F-4 Phantom and the F-86 Sabre ranging in price from $6,000 to $20,000.  This proves these people are backed financially, and the meticulous pre-planning using GPS for targeting shows the degree of their organization.  He had planned to stuff 24 pounds of C-4 explosive in the planes and was arrested when trying to buy it.  Explosives expert James Crippin says that much fire-power could do serious damage, but others commented it would have to be a direct hit, like through a window.

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee says recent advances in model airplane technology could make this even more attractive to the terrorists.  Manufacturers will innocently continue to develop and upgrade their products, playing right into the hands of the radicals.  Just like the gun industry feeds the never-ending avidity for more dangerous weapons.  The only answer to this complex problem is more regulation.

It has been established that terrorists will take advantage of any new technological advances to kill Americans.  They have come up with so many new methods recently that the frightening thing at this point is when they decide to step back and look at their arsenal and determine just how to combine all these channels for maximum effect.

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