United Kingdom: The Ring Of Steel

With the countdown to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London in full effect, the security operation to protect the event is moving forward at a similar pace.

As reported in ChainHomeHigh earlier in the year, the UK Government has taken the decision to deploy British Army surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to London to protect the skies against any attempt to hijack an airliner and crash it into any of the myriad sites around the capital hosting the sporting events.

A total of six locations have been earmarked to host SAM batteries: These include the Lexington Building, located in Tower Hamlets and the Fred Wigg Tower in Waltham Forest; both of which are situated in eastLondon. A residential block, the former Bryant and May Match Factory now known as Bow Quarter, also in eastLondon, will host a SAM unit with other sites identified at Blackheath Common and Oxleas Wood, both in southeast London, along with the William Girling Reservoir, plus Barn Hill in northeast London also flagged.

British Army SAM units have been earmarked to perform the low-and-slow intercept role. Crucially, no final decision has been taken on where the batteries will be stationed. The sites discussed above have been merely earmarked as possible SAM battery locations.

The UK Ministry of Defence’s plans have prompted some local residents to complain about the possible deployment of the missiles. A ‘Stop the Olympic Missile Committee’ has been formed by residents in Bow Quarter worried about the deployment. One of the concerns for the MoD regarding the placement of the weapons was to ensure that a site was chosen where air defenders would have an uninterrupted field-of-view, both for target acquisition and fire control, and for the missile’s flight path; no easy task in the crowded streets of east London.

Moreover, there is confusion as to which missile system the MoD plans to deploy at the Bow Quarter location. Some reports say that the Thales Starstreak Man-Portable Air Defence System semi-automatic command to line of sight weapons will be deployed there, as opposed to the BAE Systems Rapier SAM units which were originally mooted.

Published by Thomas Withington

Thomas Withington is a writer and analyst specialising in electronic warfare, radar and military communications.

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