29 Apr 2012

London’s fears over Olympic missiles plan

MoD tells 700 residents near Olympic site they will be safer with missiles on top of their east London building.

The Ministry of Defence warned residents they may have surface-to-air missiles on the rooftop for two months during the games.

While officials have not made a final decision yet, residents have been told there will be a test run next week and have seen soldiers carrying equipment into the building. The high velocity missile system will be placed on a water tower.

Some residents weren’t reassured by the thought of surface-to-air missiles parked on the roof of a building located in a densely populated residential neighbourhood.

“This morning my partner went to check the post. She came back quite upset. We’d been given a leaflet saying that our apartment building had been chosen as a site for high velocity missiles,” resident Brian Whelan said.

Residents fearful

“At first I thought it was a hoax. I can’t see what purpose high-velocity missiles could serve over a crowded area like Tower Hamlets,” he said. “It creates a lot of fears, it’s a massive inconvenience and I’m not sure that it’s entirely necessary.”

Nonetheless, Mr Whelan and his neighbours have been told the military are preparing for a “major national exercise” starting 2 May to test armed forces security.

“The air defence system will be manned by fully trained professional soldiers,” the ministry said in a leaflet for residents. “Having a 24/7 armed forces and police presence will improve your local security and will not make you a target for terrorists.”

‘Extreme security threat’

“The system will be used to monitor the airspace and will only be authorised for active use following specific orders from the highest levels of government in response to a confirmed and extreme security threat,” the leaflet states.

If the missile plan is approved, the soldiers could be “operationally deployed” during the Olympics.

“They’re stationing police and military in the tower of the building for two months,” Mr Whelan. “There will be 10 officers plus police present.”

“They say they’ll only use them as a last resort,” Mr Whelan said. “You’d shower debris across the east end of London by firing these missiles.”

The army website says the HVM system is “designed to counter threats from very high performance, low-flying aircraft.”

Multi-layered security plan

A MoD spokesman said: “As announced before Christmas, ground based air defence systems could be deployed as part of a multi-layered air security plan for the Olympics, including fast jets and helicopters, which will protect the skies over London.”

The military have identified a number of sites and discussing plans with the police and local councils.

The ministry previously said it was considering plans to install surface-to-air missiles in south-east London at Blackheath and Shooters Hill.