The Jihadi Quest for Home-Made Air Transport

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 16

A previous issue of Terrorism Focus examined jihadi attempts to produce anthrax and concluded that without the proper aerosol equipment, jihadis are unlikely to launch a biological attack in the foreseeable future (Terrorism Focus, March 11). Though the problem of aerosolization has not yet been resolved, participants on jihadi internet forums have recently been exchanging information on methods of air transport, including powered parachute design, small remote-control aircraft and even designs for Cessna 182 aircraft taken from the work of Syrian university students.

One forum participant, nicknamed “Abu Musab al-Qanawi,” posted a manual, with diagrams and video clips, for building remotely-controlled small aircraft (, March 24). In the same posting, al-Qanawi also provided instructions on how to build the Cessna 182 Skylane and the Extra 300S light aircraft.

The posting discusses all relevant data, such as aircraft weight, wing length and width, angle of attack and engine angle. The posting also includes pictures of engine types, fuel types and batteries needed to start up the engine. Al-Qanawi explains the makeup of the aircraft in a logical sequence and even uploads entire blueprints to a free file hosting website, instructing jihadis to print it out and start making the aircraft step-by-step. “It’s time we follow up on the preparation of military jihad. It’s time we possess advanced weapons systems to terrify God’s enemies. It’s true, we should have been the first to build and develop aircraft, but maybe it’s God’s will that we haven’t yet,” says al-Qanawi.

Other jihadis contributed to the aircraft building endeavor by posting useful bits of information, the most significant of which were links to video clips of a graduation project by Syrian students in Aleppo University. In this project the students attempted to build a working model of a Cessna 182 Skylane one-eighth the size of the original. The Cessna 182 is a mostly aluminum general purpose aircraft with a single 230 HP engine.

In the same posting, al-Qanawi gives details on building an Extra 300S aircraft, similar to the previous instructions and very thorough, again including links to blueprints covering every production phase uploaded to a file hosting website. The Extra 300S is the single-seat version of the German-built Extra 300, named for designer Walter Extra. Built of fiberglass and fabric on a welded-steel fuselage, the 300 HP Extra 300 series is designed for aerobatics rather than crop dusting.

Other means of air transport were posted in the jihadi’s email group, including different types of powered parachutes capable of transporting one or two persons over large distances without being detected by radar. Powered parachutes have a small motor, tubular metal frame and fixed wheels for take-off and landing. Such craft can typically be flown for about three hours before refueling and their ability to fly only a few feet off the ground is advantageous for anyone seeking to avoid radar detection. A group member nicknamed “Mojahed4ever” posted links with a brief introduction to a graduate thesis on a powered parachute prepared in the Department of Aviation Engineering at Syria’s Aleppo University. The thesis presents a powered parachute design capable of flying longer distances with extended aviation controls.

In response to Abu Musab al-Qanawi’s appeal to build and modify aircraft for jihadist purposes, other forum contributors posted links pertinent to rocket science and encouraged each other to coordinate efforts to transform this technology for jihadist military purposes. “May God reward you Abu Musab. Honestly, this subject is worth the full attention of the brothers because such technology would enable jihadis to strike at inaccessible hard targets, but we need to expand it from civilian to military use,” says one enthusiastic forum member nicknamed “Abu Ziad 314.”

From the different comments made on the jihadi aviation undertakings, forum members showed increasing interest in raising jihad operations to the next level. Some forum members also indicated that they are exchanging anthrax production knowledge in private emails, a tacit indication of jihadi interest in trying to carry out a biological air attack using anthrax.