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NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) runs a training exercise called Fertile Rice, based on the scenario of Osama bin Laden attacking a prominent target in the Washington, DC, area, using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) armed with a fuel-air explosive. An information sheet for the exercise will describe the scenario. “According to reliable sources,” it will state, “operatives of Osama bin Laden will attack a highly visible US government target within the next 24-36 hours. Specifically, the terrorist will utilize an unmanned aerial vehicle, believed to be the Russian-developed Colibri, modified to be launched off a ship.” Bin Laden has acquired at least one, and perhaps two, Colibri UAVs. The plans for the Colibri may have been illegally purchased by his agents posing as Iranian Air Force representatives. The terrorists’ exact target is unknown, but “unconfirmed reports” suggest it is in the Washington area.
Drone Has Electronic Jamming Equipment - The Colibri is a propeller-driven remotely piloted vehicle that is designed to perform a wide variety of military and civilian missions. It is 4.25 meters long, has a wingspan of 5.9 meters, and its maximum speed is 155 miles per hour. The aircraft bin Laden has obtained in the scenario is reportedly fitted with sophisticated electronic jamming equipment, as well as equipment for monitoring electronic communications and radar.
Ship Carrying the Drone Left from a Port in the Middle East - The ship carrying the Colibri left a port in the Middle East about two weeks ago in the scenario and is set to rendezvous with an unspecified person off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, on August 4. This person will provide the final targeting information that will be programmed into the Colibri. The ship is reportedly also carrying a dozen shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, and unspecified types of plastic explosives.
Drone Is Carrying a Highly Destructive Explosive - The Colibri’s “weapon payload” in the scenario is reportedly a type of fuel-air explosive. (Northeast Air Defense Sector 8/4/2001; Northeast Air Defense Sector 8/5/2001) Fuel-air explosives are highly destructive. They “disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel, which is ignited by an embedded detonator to produce an explosion,” according to the Federation of American Scientists. The “rapidly expanding wavefront” that results from the explosion “flattens all objects within close proximity of the epicenter of the aerosol fuel cloud and produces debilitating damage well beyond the flattened area.” (Federation of American Scientists 2/5/1998)
Weekly Exercise Includes Simulated Hijackings - Fertile Rice is a NEADS command post exercise (CPX). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989) (A CPX is defined by the Department of Defense as a type of exercise “in which the forces are simulated, involving the commander, the staff, and communications within and between headquarters.” (US Department of Defense 11/8/2011 ) ) Fertile Rice exercises are held weekly at NEADS prior to 9/11, according to Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the NEADS mission crew commander technician. They routinely involve simulated aircraft hijackings, although multiple hijack scenarios are never included. Occasionally the aircraft that is hijacked has taken off from within the United States. Sometimes the scenario takes place over land and at other times it takes place over water. These large-scale exercises include at least seven “targets,” according to McCain, although what the targets might be is unstated. (9/11 Commission 10/28/2003; 9/11 Commission 10/28/2003 ) NEADS, based in Rome, New York, is responsible for protecting the airspace in which the hijackings take place on September 11 and will therefore be responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Bronner 8/1/2006; Shenon 2008, pp. 203)
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