Tuesday, 3 July 2012

London's Olympic Air Defences

It has now been confirmed that, in addition to the Typhoon fighter aircraft temporarily stationed at RAF Northolt, Rapier and Starstreak High Velocity Missiles are to be deployed in London to offer air defence in the event of an Olympics related attack.

I'm a little confused by this.

Presumably, in the event of a 9/11 style attack, either the Typhoons will be sent up in an to attempt to deter the offending aircraft and, if necessary, shoot them down. Or, they will cut out the fighters altogether and go straight in with the missiles!

There does seem to be a flaw in this plan. Anyone involved in this kind of attack has to see it as a one way trip. The threat of being shot out of the sky seems very unlikely to deter them. Therefore, the use of fighters or missiles as a deterrent seems to be a non starter, which leaves the military with only one option which is to shoot down the threatening aircraft.

As there is no way to control, or even to know, where a downed aircraft will crash, the end result of this would be much the same as if the initial attack had been successful. The devastation may not be where the terrorists planned it to be, but it would be devastation all the same and the crew would have achieved the martyrdom that their cause demanded of them.

I'm not here to discuss the political implications or the beliefs of others. Nor am I here to simply dismiss the military response to this type of threat. I may have completely missed the point of these defences, but I don't think I'm alone there.

Without giving away the tactical details of these deployments, we need some explanation as to how the authorities plan to handle an incident and some assurance that the consequences of the defence strategy will not be just as destructive as a successful attack.

If all of this just turns out to be a bluff, or a show of strength, with no real expectation of success, then perhaps we should just call it a day and hope for the best.

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