Could Model Airplanes Become A Terrorist Weapon?
In this day and age, does anything shock you?
Model airplanes are suddenly on the public’s radar as potential terrorist weapons. A 26-year-old man from a Boston suburb was arrested Wednesday and accused of plotting to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol with remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives.
These are not balsa-wood-and-rubber-band toys investigators are talking about. The FBI said Rezwan Ferdaus hoped to use military-jet replicas, 5 to 7 1/2 feet long, guided by GPS devices and capable of speeds over 100 mph.
Federal officials have long been aware of the possibility someone might try to use such planes as weapons, but there are no restrictions on their purchase — Ferdaus is said to have bought his over the Internet.
Counterterrorism experts and model-aircraft hobbyists said it would be nearly impossible to inflict large-scale damage of the sort Ferdaus allegedly envisioned using model planes. The aircraft are too small, can’t carry enough explosives and are too tricky to fly, they said.
“The idea of pushing a button and this thing diving into the Pentagon is kind of a joke, actually,” said Greg Hahn, technical director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
Rick Nelson, a former Navy helicopter pilot who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Ferdaus would have had to hit a window or other vulnerable area to maximize damage, and that would have taken precision flying.
“Flying a remote-controlled plane isn’t as easy as it actually looks, and then to put an explosive on it and have that explosive detonate at the time and place that you want it add to the difficulty of actually doing it,” he said