- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) — The Pentagon arrayed Avenger air defense systems, Sentinel radars and hand-held Stinger missiles and has stepped up combat air patrols over the Washington region in response to the heightened threat of a terrorist attack this week, according to a military official.

The Customs Service is flying helicopters over the area as well. The Federal Aviation Administration has also expanded the temporary flight restrictions to 30 miles from Washington, up from the 15-mile restricted area in place since Sept. 11, 2001.

The restrictions require pilots to follow strict communications and security procedures.

Many of the same systems were put in place for the president's State of the Union address — a potential terrorist target as nearly all government leaders were gathered at the U.S. Capitol. They were taken down shortly thereafter.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Friday he was raising the terrorist threat alert to the second-highest level — code orange — based on intelligence reports warning of a "high risk" of a terrorist attack from al Qaida.

The Stinger is a man-portable, shoulder-fired guided infrared-guided missile.

The Avenger is a Humvee-mounted Stinger missile system, which is used against enemy aircraft. It is particularly effective against helicopters, cruise missiles and low- and slow-flying aircraft.

The Sentinel Radar is an air surveillance and target acquisition/tracking sensor that cues the Avenger and the Stinger to its targets.

F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft are conducting the combat air patrols.

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