A DIY Cruise Missile
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: 13 June 2003

This site recently prompted a discussion on the "geek news" website, SlashDot.

In the course of this discussions, a number of issues and questions were raised, many of which I will try to address here.

"Isn't this going to harm the model rocket and model airplane communities?"
No, it shouldn't because it is quite distinctly different to both of these fine pastimes.

Firstly, the cruise missile isn't a rocket, it has no rocket engine or any other parts used by model rocket enthusiasts. The hobby of amateur rocketry is already subject to some regulations designed to stop terrorists from building their own weapons.

And, while the LCCM may appear to have similarities with model airplanes, there are actually some very significant differences.

For a start, the LCCM is fully autonomous -- not radio controlled. Radio control units of the type used for models only have a range of around 1.5-2.5 miles maximum. This would make it very difficult for a terrorist to use such a system to control a would-be missile over any reasonable distance. They'd be much better off using a home-built mortar or other low-tech weapon.

Secondly, the LCCM flies almost twice as fast as the fastest RC model airplane. Most models fly at less than 70mph, meaning they are the type of target that can be "taken out" with small arms fire.

The model rocketry and airplane hobbies should have nothing to fear from the heightened awareness of the LCCM threat.

"Isn't this site just a resource for terrorists?"
Why? I have no intention of publishing anything here that isn't available in one form or another from any number of other sources. I don't consider myself to be a particularly talented mechanical or software engineer and I'm sure that any serious terror group could do a much better job on their own by recruiting people with better skills than mine. The point of the project is to show that it's not rocket science we're talking about here.

The goal of this site is to educate the general public to the risk that such a low cost cruise missile could represent if they're not vigilant and aware. It might also make the public more favorably disposed towards providing the defense industry with the funding it needs to research and develop an effective countermeasure.

"A 10 kilogram warhead isn't going to do much in the way of damage"
Yes, thankfully this is true. Remember that the object of this project is not to provide a blueprint for would-be terrorists, simply to offer the proof that this type of craft is indeed a practical reality. However, for a more sobering perspective, Reuters reported earlier this year that just 1Kg (2.2lbs) of anthrax spores dispersed over a city of 10 million people could result in over 100,000 deaths, despite the use of antibiotics. Although the original story has been archived off most news sites, I found a copy in Google's cache

"The pulsejet ain't going to be quiet"
True, but no jet engine is quiet and at a speed of 600Kms/H (380 mph) at relatively low altitude, this noise would not offer any realistic early-warning. It's also worth mentioning that the key component of the word "terrorist" is the word "terror." One only has to talk with to anyone who lived in London during WW2 to understand the terrifying effect that the sound of a pulsejet-powered cruise missile can inflict on a city of millions -- even when they know that the chance of being hit is minimal.

"How do we prevent terrorist from using this kind of stuff?"
The best way to counter this type of technology being assembled by terrorists within the borders of our own country(ies) is to educate the public as to just how possible it is. The price of freedom is vigilance and without the practical proof that it could be done, who would have believed that your new neighbor could be building a "terror weapon" in their garage?

"Why would they [terrorists] want to build one of those missiles?"
Because, as we've seen since 9/11, the strategies instituted by police, defense and intelligence authorities have been very successful at thwarting low-tech attacks against targets within the USA. A low-cost cruise missile (LCCM) might offer a significantly higher chance of success at striking high-value targets such as The White House, the Capitol Buildings or even downtown New York during rush-hour.

There's also the psychological effect that a terrorist-launched cruise missile would have on the general population. "My gosh, the terrorists have cruise missiles too!" would be a chilling realization for most people, even if the practical implications were known to be far less sinister.


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