I’ve read about the security preparations for the London Olympics and one particular aspect that has piqued my interest is the MoD deployment of ground-to-air missile batteries in London. They can’t put them in the street, both for public safety, and because the surrounding buildings would severely limit their field of fire.

To address both problems, the MoD decided to put the batteries on the buildings. The Sun reported,

General Sir Nick Parker, in charge of the military’s Olympics role, said the security exercise would prepare for the possibility of “extreme threats”.

He said: “What we need to do is make sure we practise against those high-end threats but they are not considered to be likely.

“What I’m doing is testing my systems so I’m reassured that, should they become more likely, we can react.”

He added: “One would want the world to know that we are taking security for the Olympics seriously.”

I wonder if his last comment isn’t the key to the point behind the missiles. That is, to make sure everyone knows the UK is deadly serious about securing the games in the hopes that any groups thinking about causing trouble will decide not to bother.

I base my conclusion on two thoughts. My main thought is that the real world doesn’t work like the movies. When the explosives in a missile detonate near a flying aircraft, the end-product is not limited to a pretty explosion with crowds of people cheering because they’ve been saved. Rather, the missile explodes and if successful, the explosion renders the aircraft unable to fly. The fuel aboard the aircraft may explode, but the dry mass of the aircraft remains. Since it can no longer fly, it falls to the ground. Whether the bulk of the aircraft remains in one piece or breaks up, it’s coming down.

With some or all the missile batteries stationed within the city, it’s not impossible that a downed aircraft would fall into the city, causing who know how much damage. Both missile systems the MoD has deployed have 7 km ranges, increasing that possibility, in my opinion.

My other thought is regarding the buildings used for the missile batteries. The specific locations mentioned in news articles are either apartment buildings, or other structures in plain public view. One of the latter is a water-tower, for instance.

Surely the MoD isn’t so out of touch that they can’t imagine the inhabitants of these apartment buildings might have strong feelings about having their homes thrust to the front line in the defence against a possible terrorist attack. The residents were informed of their building’s new defence role in a flyer. According to The Sun,

It said the GBAD — Ground-Based Air Defence — weapons will be operated by “fully trained and experienced soldiers” and added: “Having a 24/7 armed forces and police presence will improve your security and will not make you a terrorist target.”

One has to wonder how they can be so certain that a group intent on an air attack wouldn’t think it prudent to deal with the defences they’re likely to meet.

It’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but believe the military wants this splashed all over the news in the hopes that it will scare off potential attackers, or that the publicised missile launchers are no-where near to total number that will be used in London’s defence. Below is a photo of a mobile Rapier missile launcher. It looks no larger than a small U‑Haul trailer.

20120714_rapier

The newer Starstreak missile can be fired from a similarly sized launcher or a portable launcher that MoD personnel can carry into the field.

How will this all work out? We’ll have to wait and see.


Rapier launcher photo by Wikipedia user Desmoh, used under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.