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Ciaran Maxwell compiled a library of terrorism documents, bought chemicals and components and went on to manufacture explosives and devices, which he stashed in purpose-built hides in England and Northern Ireland.
The 31-year-old, of Exminster in Devon, also had maps, plans and lists of potential targets for a terrorist attack as well as images of an adapted PSNI pass card and a PSNI uniform.
The serviceman, who is originally from Co Antrim, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to preparation of terrorist acts between January 2011 and August last year, possessing images of bank cards for fraud and possessing cannabis with intent to supply, in February.
He faces years behind bars when he is sentenced by Mr Justice Sweeney at the same court in a hearing, which could last up to three days, starting today.
The court has heard that Maxwell stashed in his hides a range of explosive substances, devices and components as well as ammunition, weapons and tools for making bombs.
Maxwell, originally from Larne, was arrested on 24 August last year by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service's counter-terrorism command, supported by Avon and Somerset and Devon and Cornwall Police.
The pre-planned operation is believed to have been linked to the discovery of two dissident arsenals in woodland on the outskirts of the Co Antrim town last year.
Officers searched a house in Exminster in Devon and nearby Powderham New Plantation woods.
In Northern Ireland, officers also searched a number of properties in Larne.
Months earlier, two separate hauls of weapons were discovered in Carnfunnock and Capanagh parks.
In March last year, police said four barrels were unearthed at Carnfunnock - two were empty and two contained a variety of bomb-making components, including wiring, toggle switches, circuit boards, partially constructed timer power units, ball bearings and a small quantity of explosives.
In May, an armour-piercing improvised rocket and two anti-personnel mines were among the cache recovered at Capanagh.
Several pipe bombs, magazines and ammunition for an assault rifle, and bomb component parts and command wires were also concealed in barrels in purpose-built holes in woodland.