MoD officials to face critics at meeting over plans to site missiles in Bow during Olympic Games

Bow Quarter Residence, missile placement site Photo: Alex Bishop

The Ministry of Defence is to face its critics from the  Stop the Olympic Missiles Committee at a meeting on Thursday  this week, to the Bow Quarter Residence where it wants to site missiles during the Olympics . The Ministry of Defence have also responded to a series of questions raised by East London Lines.

Bow Quarter Resident and founder of the campaign Brian Whelan told the East London Advertiser that the committee has “had confirmation from the MoD that they will be attending.” He went on to say that he expects the meeting to be a “lively” and “healthy” discussion.

After narrowing the placement sites from 100 to 6, Bow Quarter residence was one of the final sites chosen to house ground-to-air missiles during the Olympic Games this July.

East London Lines attended the last Stop the Olympic Missiles Committee meeting and reported on the concerns about the missiles being stationed on top of the Bow Quarter Residence. ELL asked the MoD to comment on the issues raised:

Technical Questions:

ELL: Why is Bow Quarter one of the best options for missile placement?
MoD: Other potential sites were considered but ruled out as being less effective, most commonly due to obstructions which limit the ability of the system to detect and respond to potential threats at the earliest possible stage. All locations which were considered were subject to detailed technical analysis.  Those which have been selected, including Bow Quarter, were found to offer the best possible protection to the Olympic Park and surrounding areas from any potential threat from the air.

ELL: Some of the residents brought up the point that instead of spending time researching potential missile placement sites, that time would have been better spent building a missile base. Was this looked into, or perhaps even attempted and if so, to what degree?
MoD: The locations that have been selected, including Bow Quarter, have been deemed as giving the best possible protection to the Olympic Park and surrounding areas against any air threat. If building a new missile base in a different location represented a more effective option then we would have done it.

ELL: Citing Newton’s third law of motion, another issue raised at the meeting is if a missile is fired, is there a reaction in the opposite direction that will take a toll on surrounding flats? In that same vein, many worry the building is not built to withstand missile launches. Will this have an effect on the structure?
MoD: [The Starstreak High Velocity Missile] is a portable missile system which can be launched from either a monopod or from the operator’s shoulder.  In the highly unlikely event that it had to be fired, plastic and aluminium end caps are ejected from the front and rear of the missile tube. Neither the caps being fired from the launcher or the activation of first or second stage motors will cause any damage to personnel or buildings close to the launcher.

ELL: Hypothetically, if the missiles were used on an aircraft, residents are worried about the crash site being in a residential area and causing more collateral damage. What is the MoD’s response to this concern?
MoD: No one has ever tried to pretend that firing such a weapon would not have implications, however the circumstances in which a missile might need to be fired would represent an extreme situation where action was being taken in an effort to minimise damage and loss of life.  In the highly unlikely event of an aircraft crashing in London in any circumstances, the civil authorities have well developed and well rehearsed plans to manage the consequences of such an incident.

Community Questions:

ELL: What were the steps in the decision-making process for missile placement?
MoD: Our security planning for the Games has been on-going with the Home Office for over two years.  Detailed planning has been required in a number of areas and initial engagements with local authorities and the relevant landowners has been conducted at the earliest opportunity.

ELL: Residents feel that they were left out of the decision-making process, and the first they heard of the missiles was via the leaflet the MoD provided. To what degree did the MoD consult with Bow Quarter residents and not just Bow Quarter staff?
MoD: It was always the MoD’s intention to involve and inform residents before any general announcement to the media or wider public. We gave as much notice of the deployment as we were able to do at the site.  In other areas where [Ground-Based Air Defence] was deployed, we were able to inform residents as early as March.  Since informing residents of Bow Quarter, we have conducted a number of community engagement events at which we have endeavoured to answer all questions put to us by residents and, while concerns have been raised, the response from the majority of those present at these events has been positive and understanding.  The MoD wants to ensure to residents that personnel are available to answer further questions, address concerns and provide reassurance to residents.

ELL: Many worry that the missiles will make Bow Quarter a terrorist target because the line of sight from the Olympics Park and the stir in the media this issue has arisen has brought the placement out in the open. Does this raise concerns? Will alternative placements be looked into if the MoD views the Bow Quarter missile placement as compromised?
MoD: There is no specific evidence to suggest this – indeed, a permanent military and police presence is likely to increase rather than compromise security at the sites in question.

For more information on the MoD’s defence contributions, see their fact sheet.

The public meeting will take place at Bow Road Methodist Church, on May 31 at 7pm. Along side Mr. Whelan will be Stop the War Coalition‘s Chris Nineham, Councillor Rania Khan and Alex Kenny from Tower Hamlets NUT.

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