The government isn't talking, but the neighbors sure are. And it's all because of a recent - and very unusual - addition to the "front yard" of the Navy's Bethesda, Maryland-based test facility. Located in a very woodsy area of this posh D.C. suburb is a ground-to-air missile battery. Clearly visible to the passing cars on the Clara Barton Parkway is this six-silo launcher stationed on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center's Carderock facility, tucked in-between the famous Beltway and the Potomac River. It's inside the "No-Fly" zone - about 10 miles from the White House - and clearly is intended to protect the center of the nation's capital from anything that might penetrate that airspace.
Lt. Cmdr. Ed Zeigler, public affairs officer for the Naval District of Washington, was recently quoted in the Washington Post as saying that the launcher is part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command's Operation Noble Eagle, a program designed to tighten national security since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He says the six non-nuclear missiles in the launcher could "counter an inbound threat."
It isn't known how many other permanent launchers are in the area. Since 9/11, portable missile launchers have occasionally been spotted around the D.C. area, especially when the terrorist threat levels are elevated. Pilots are warned to be extremely vigilant near the Baltimore-D.C.-Capital area .
Update: March 9, 2005