While considerable attention is being directed to potential terrorist use of unconventional weapons such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons, relatively little attention has been directed to potential terrorist use of advanced conventional weapons. The November 2002 attacks in Mombasa, Kenya, using Russian-made man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) against an Israeli airliner, attributed by some to al Qaeda, demonstrated that some terrorists are willing and interested in using relatively unfamiliar, advanced weaponry.1
Our use of the term advanced conventional weapons is inclusive and broad: any new or unusual conventional weaponry developed for ordinary military forces. This is essentially the definition used by the U.S. Department of State, which describes advanced conventional weapons as “modern, sophisticated munitions designed for conventional warfare.”2 Such weaponry seems a priori likely to be particularly threatening in the hands of terrorists, as it is designed to do damage, while its sophistication might allow new, or at least unfamiliar, attacks. At the same time, the usual limitation of much weaponry to militaries also implies that some controls would be imposed. Of course, any controls on these conventional weapons would be less burdensome than those imposed upon nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. This is still quite unlike the case of systems developed in the wider, commercial
1 Caffera (2003), p. 13; Bayles (2003).
2 U.S. Department of State (undated).