An amateur cruise missile designer claims the New Zealand Government, under pressure from the US, has forced him to pull the plugs on the project. Bruce Simpson's 'build a cruise for under $5,000' project has been fairly widely-known since at least March of this year, and he says the Government had previously admitted he wasn't breaking any New Zealand laws, and had even confirmed that he was perfectly free to export the technology to Iran.
But now, reports the BBC, they have bankrupted him over a tax debt, and he has moved the missile to an undisclosed New Zealand location.
The cruise was the highest profile of Simpson's projects, but he also designs the X-Jet engine as a general-purpose device (for example, go karts). His intention with the cruise was simply to demonstrate that it could be done cheaply, from readily- and legally- available parts, and he is of course right.
Essentially, any self-respecting terrorist with some aeronautical knowledge, a garage and a mail-order catalogue could knock together a cruise missile and use GPS navigation to steer it to the target of their choice. Other options include souped-up RC models and modified commercial aircraft; it's more a matter of whether or not the terrorists have the will to do it than of the technology being in any sense special. As we recall, one of the issues is launch, as cruise missiles are ordinarily fired or air-launched. But a roof-rack and a straight stretch of highway can be used to overcome this.
According to an announcement on Simpson's site, the missile will still go into testing next year. He also has a discussion group going, and intends to offer information via a subscription service. So it's not dead yet. ®