Today Brian Whelan woke up to find information from the Ministry of Defence waiting by his letter box.
The leaflet informed him that during the London 2012 Olympic games the army will be putting missiles on the roof of his building and there will be soldiers on duty there 24 hours a day. He was not asked about this in advance, or given a choice, simply informed that his building was the best place to site these missiles. From what Brian said it might not be the safest place for these missiles.
Even worse, it seems that there may already be military equipment in the building.
The missiles to be used are Ground Based Air Defence, High Velocity Missile (HVM) of the type shown in the picture below.
Leaving aside the lack of consultation about this and the failure to ask the residents, we get to the question of what good these missiles could actually do. Presumably these missiles are to guard against aircraft piloted or hijacked by terrorists which might be flown into Olympic venues 9/11 style. In the event that such an aircraft was identified, unless it was shot down over open ground the wreckage will fall directly onto London streets and buildings. These hardly look like long range missiles; they look like the target must be in visual range. (Correct me if I am wrong here.) We knew from previous announcements that there would be missiles on board ships in the Thames, but I certainly didn’t realise that there would be more dotted around London. I expected the missiles that had been mentioned to be of the sort that could be fired at a plane a bit further away where plummeting debris might not have such an awful effect. Use of these missiles to bring down a hijacked jet would simply move the devastation from the intended target to somewhere else in London. Then we must ask how the army will identify a target. What is the criteria? A plane that has wandered off course? A passenger jet that doesn’t answer a challenge by radio in time? A microlight with no radio? A news helicopter? The scope for mistakes here is huge and the resulting carnage would be awful. In my opinion, if the MOD intend these missiles to be used at all then they are incredibly stupid and thoughtless. If they are not intended to be use then they are highly dangerous security theatre with a massive scope to go wrong.
Blackheath has been awash with rumours that air defence missiles will be placed on the Heath to protect the capital during the Olympics.
To the credit of our Lewisham Councillors, security services personnel were brought in to give a briefing to the Blackheath Assembly on 13 March.
Blackheath is one of six sites being evaluated for a possible missile defence system for the duration of the Olympics and some radar equipment was tested on the Heath last week.
We understand that either all six will be chosen, or none. The Blackheath site is opposite Holly Hedge House, the police base for the Olympics. Oxleas Wood is another possible site.
There is already opposition to the missile deployment at Oxleas Wood, and their Facebook group has more information: No Missiles in Oxleas Woods!
Katie Draper is another person who has been informed today that there will be missiles sited on top of her home.
Soldiers on the streets of London
In reaction to the news that there would be 14,000 troops deployed in London during the Olympics as security personnel, I filed a Freedom Of Information request to find out whether these troops would be armed and what powers they would have. I recieved a reply from the Home Office so here it is.
Freedom of Information (FOI) Request: Olympic safety and security
Military personnel deployed as security staff to assist the Police or for logistical support will not routinely carry firearms and firearms will not be available to military personnel deployed as Security staff to assist the Police or to provide logistical support. Because of this, the question about ammunition is not applicable.
Military personnel do not have any powers of arrest above and beyond those of an ordinary citizen under common law. The MOD has tried and tested arrangements in place for providing military support to the Police and other civil authorities, which means it is possible that military personnel providing assistance to the Police may be deployed outside of areas where Olympic events take place.
It is interesting to note that the soldiers will not be armed and will not even have powers of arrest beyond those of the ordinary citizen. I am also alarmed to see that soldiers may be used outside of areas of London where the Olympic games are being held.