Warplanes: The Al Qaeda Air Force


September 30, 2005: Earlier this month, Pakistani troops captured an al Qaeda/Taliban base near the Afghan border. In addition to Pakistani and foreign terrorists captured, there was a great deal of material taken as well. This included guns, ammo, communications gear, laptops, and what was described as a "Chinese UAV". Actually, it was a fairly large, bright yellow, remote control (RC) aircraft. A hobby item, actually. One of the Pakistani reporters later found an identical one in a big city hobby shop, selling for $55. The aircraft was made in China. The Pakistani army reported that the "Chinese UAV" was equipped with a video camera and transmitter, although the army did not release any details on that.

It turns out that China (and Taiwan) are major manufacturers of radio controlledaircraft for hobbyists. One such model, bright yellow and weighing six pounds, was found in the catalog of a Chinese manufacturer. American troops, usually RC aircraft hobbyists, have modified such aircraft to carry a video camera and a transmitter, and use them in Iraq. Such field expedient UAVs don't have much range (about a kilometer), and can only stay in the air for about 30 minutes per sortie. But these things do the job, giving the troops a view of what's behind the next hill, or lurking in the alleyways they are about to pass. There's no reason the al Qaeda gang up in the mountain could not have used their little (well, these things have a wing span of 5-6 feet) RC aircraft for more serious matters. As the old saying goes, never underestimate the enemy.


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