A bomb squad was called to Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts after a rented moving truck tested positive for “potentially explosive material” during a routine vehicle inspection. The base was partially evacuated in response.
Security guards discovered the potential danger during an inspection of the Big Foot Moving and Storage 18-wheeler at the Vandenberg Gate on state Route 2A around 9am local time on Thursday morning.
A bomb-sniffing K9 zeroed in on a crate in the truck, and a swab test found “explosives residue” on the box, a source told WHDH.
The “security concern” led Hanscom to “put response actions in place,” including “a temporary closure of the base’s Vandenberg (Rte 2A) Gate and evacuation of several nearby base facilities,” Hanscom said in a statement.
Big Foot Moving and Storage, a local moving company, was scheduled to make a delivery of “household goods” on the base, company representatives told WFXT.
The Massachusetts State Police bomb squad unit and Air Wing responded to the incident.
Bomb squad, Air Wing at Hanscom AFB, potentially suspicious truck at gate. Area near gate has been evacuated. Will update when appropriate.
— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) July 6, 2017
The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI were also on scene to assist with the investigation.
Boxes were pulled off the truck and checked by bomb-sniffing dogs.
Police pulled the two people in the truck aside for questioning. Authorities also set up a 1,500-ft (457m) perimeter in all directions.
Hanscom civilian air service was suspended, and state police asked the media to keep their helicopters out of the air space over the base.
Just after 1pm, the truck was cleared.
“Explosive materials experts are on the scene, and have cleared the vehicle. However pallets from the truck, which contain potentially concerning residue, have been removed and will be taken to a specialized facility for testing,” the base said.
Although the Vandenberg Gate remains closed, “the base is otherwise returning to normal operations,” officials added. “Personnel and others who had been evacuated are returning now.”
— Christina Hager (@HagerWBZ) July 6, 2017
Hanscom Air Force Base opened as an auxiliary airport for Boston in 1941, and was leased to the War Department (now the Department of Defense) in mid-1942. The US Army Air Corp, the precursor to the US Air Force, used the airport to train fighter squadrons during World War II. After 1943, however, the base was used to test new radar sets developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Radiation Laboratory. Since 1945, Hanscom has served as the Air Force’s center for the development and acquisition of electronic systems.
The base is home to the 66th Medical Squadron and is one of five centers under the Air Force Materiel Command. It is located about 15 miles (24km) northwest of Boston. More than 10,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard personnel; defense contractors and civilians are supported or employed by Hanscom. The base supports the Massachusetts National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the Mitre Federally Funded Research and Development Centers.
The majority of Hanscom is in Bedford, but parts are also in the adjoining towns of Concord and Lincoln. The adjacent Hanscom Field provides general aviation and charter service. There are also 731 privatized homes on the base.
The most famous incident involving Hanscom occurred on July 28, 1945, when a B-25 bomber took off from the Massachusetts base and crashed into the Empire State Building in New York City.