Airport security forces go on full alert when they spot a suspiciously shaped cigarette lighter in a carry-on bag. But U.S. Customs inspectors at the Port of Hueneme took a more casual approach when off an offloading freighter came an all-but-operational Scud missile, mounted atop its truck-like launch vehicle.
The 37-foot-long, five-ton green relic of the Czech army sat for a week before inspectors started to wonder just what the Bay Area man who bought it planned to do with it.
It turns out Jacques Littlefield, a 48-year-old portfolio manager, is a weapons collector with a collection of more than 100 war toys at his 470-acre Portola Valley ranch, including about 40 tanks and a one-eighth-scale train.
Customs Service officials, who are conducting a joint investigation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, don't doubt Littlefield's intentions. They had no complaint when he imported another Scud earlier this year--because that one had been "demilitarized" as the law requires, by removing its guidance system and cutting its rocket motor with a torch to destroy it.
But they'd like to know why one of the missiles made infamous by Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War came into this country needing only fuel and a live warhead to be ready to wreak serious havoc. Add those, and the Russian-made missile is capable of delivering an 1,800-pound warhead up to 310 miles.
Littlefield swears he's a collector, not a terrorist, and the feds say they believe him.
But to the average commuter stuck in a Sig Alert or to a suburbanite with problematic neighbors, the vision of an operational Scud missile waiting patiently on the dock is the stuff daydreams are made of.