LONDON, United Kingdom — (DMN/BBC) – The Ministry of Defence is considering placing surface-to-air missiles on residential flats during the Olympics. An east London estate, where 700 people live, has received leaflets saying a “Higher Velocity Missile system” could be placed on a water tower. A spokesman said the MoD had not yet decided whether to deploy ground based air defence systems during the event. But estate resident Brian Whelan said firing the missiles “would shower debris across the east end of London”.
The journalist said: “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. “They say they’ll only use them as a last resort, but… you’d shower debris across the east end of London by firing these missiles.” Mr Whelan, who claims to have seen soldiers carrying a crate into the building, said his property management company put up posters and gave out the leaflets on Saturday. He continued: “They are going to have a test run next week, putting high velocity missiles on the roof just above our apartment and on the back of it they’re stationing police and military in the tower of the building for two months. “It [the leaflet] says there will be 10 officers plus police present 24/7.”
Rushana Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: “It looks like it’s been imposed without proper consultation. “I will be asking the government to explain why. The MoD does need to look at this again.” The leaflet states that members of the Armed Forces will be at the location for a military exercise between 2 and 7 May. It goes on to say there will be a “major national exercise” from 2 to 10 May to test the Armed Forces’ capabilities for providing security during the Olympics. The document added that if the government decides to use the missiles during the Games, the soldiers could be “operationally deployed for a period of up to two months this summer”.
The weapon being considered is a High Velocity Missile (HVM) system, which would be based on the Lexington Building Water Tower. The tower contains residential flats. The MoD says in the leaflet that the missiles will not pose a hazard to residents 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 document states: “Having a 24/7 Armed Forces and police presence will improve your local security and will not make you a target for terrorists. “The location has been chosen as it is situated close to the Olympic Park and offers an excellent view of the surrounding area and the entire sky above the Olympic Park. “The top of the tower also offers a flat, uncluttered and safe area from which to operate.”
The Army website says the HVM system is “designed to counter threats from very high performance, low-flying aircraft”. It says the missile travels at more than three times the speed of sound, using “a system of three dart-like projectiles to allow multiple hits on the target”. The missiles can be fired from the shoulder, from a lightweight multiple launcher or from armoured vehicles. 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 during the Games. “Based on military advice we have identified a number of sites and, alongside colleagues from the Metropolitan Police, are talking to local authorities and relevant landowners to help minimise the impact of any temporary deployments. “As part of our ongoing planning, we can confirm site evaluations have taken place.” The MoD has previously said it was considering plans to install surface-to-air missiles in south-east London at Blackheath and Shooters Hill during the Olympics.