Monthly Archives: March 2012

The missiles will be armed, but the guards won’t…

Letter from local Lib Dem councillors:
Emphasis mine:

Dear Resident

Surface-to-air missiles on Blackheath

Many residents will be concerned to hear that a Rapier surface-to-air missile system might be deployed on Blackheath during the Olympics. Following on from a briefing by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Metropolitan Police at last night’s Blackheath Assembly meeting, we can confirm that Blackheath is being considered as one of six potential missile bases.

Blackheath has been selected because of its height and vantage point over London and the Thames corridor. The actual site has been located as the area immediately outside Holly Hedge House (the TA centre). The defence system consists of a missile launcher, radar sensor and tracker and will be guarded by unarmed military police. An enclosure will be erected around the equipment, the size of which is currently being determined.

At present, information is being gathered by the MoD and fed to the Secretary of State for Defence, who will make the ultimate decision about what is sited where, by early summer. We have got a guarantee that there will be further consultation with residents before a decision on final deployment.

We have ascertained that the footprint used will be as small as possible and there will be no restrictions on using the heath or any road closures associated with this.

We felt that the liaison officers from the MoD and the Police were as open as possible within the constraints of national security and we will be pressing them to continue this process of consultation right through to the event.
If you have any specific concerns you wish us to raise with them please let us know.

Is it advisable to tell the public that the military police guarding the missiles will be unarmed?
My parody limit has been reached… I honestly can’t tell any more.

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Leaflet from the MoD on missiles

Councillor Chris Maines has forwarded the information leaflet from the MoD, explaining the test.

MoD leaflet about the Olympics Rapier missile testing (PDF)

Below is the text from the PDF.

How are the Armed Forces contributing to the Olympics?
When there is a significant event in the UK, the Civil Authorities seek assistance from the Armed Forces and the Olympics is no different.
As part of the Military Assistance to the Civil Authorities, the Armed Forces are assisting the Police with security for the Olympics

Why are we here?
We are running an exercise locally to test the sensors and communications on our Air Defence Systems which might be used to support the police-led security operation for the Olympics 2012.
As part of our ongoing planning, we are testing the equipment to make sure that, if it is used, it will work effectively in this environment and we will ensure any impact to the local community is noted and addressed.

Why is the military doing this?
The military is providing support to the police security plan for the Olympics, in London and across the UK. We need to make sure our equipment works.

Why has this location been chosen?
This site provides one of the best locations in London for this equipment, should it be decided to deploy it for the Olympics.

Does that mean we are a target?
No. It is not being considered for deployment in response to any specific threat. The equipment has a range of capabilities including its radar and it will represent a powerful deterrent.

Is the equipment safe?
There is no danger to the public from today’s testing.
Will it affect my mobile telephone or my TV network? We have carried out careful planning to make sure it should not interfere with your TV or mobile reception and are confident that this will not occur. Our testing today will confirm this.
What does HVM (the High Velocity Missile) do? HVM is a piece of equipment that we use to protect ourselves against hostile aircraft and helicopters.

What does Rapier do?
The Rapier system can track aircraft using its sensors and if necessary deter an attack from the air.

Why are you testing it without missiles?
We don’t need missiles when we test the sensors and communications systems.

How long will it be here for?
We will only be here for a few hours.

Will you be coming back?
It is probable that we will come back for some further testing or exercising. We will keep local Councils and landowners informed.

Remember, blowing things out of the sky is defence. Not a colossal waste of time and money. And nothing to worry your pretty heads about.

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Blackheath society’s response to the missile crisis

Response from the Blackheath Society

Blackheath has been awash with rumours that air defence missiles will be placed on the Heath to protect the capital during the Olympics.
To the credit of our Lewisham Councillors, security services personnel were brought in to give a briefing to the Blackheath Assembly on 13 March.

Blackheath is one of six sites being evaluated for a possible missile defence system for the duration of the Olympics and some radar equipment was tested on the Heath last week.

We understand that either all six will be chosen, or none. The Blackheath site is opposite Holly Hedge House, the police base for the Olympics. Oxleas Wood is another possible site.

We were told that a final decision as to whether to deploy the system would be made in the early summer and a further test visit is possible.

Our concern is that, if it is decided to go ahead any installation should be as small as possible, especially given the other uses of the Heath by the Olympics already planned.
The security services seemed at pains to acknowledge this, and further consultation was promised.

We await further news.

Howard Shields
Chairman

So now we know where.
My concern isn’t with the the size of the missiles, but the fact that they are used for blowing things up.
Did any of the planning documents mention a missile base?

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Missile ranges

If the MoD site is wrong, and Wikipedia is right, then the actual range of a Rapier missile on Blackheath is 6.8km, not 500m (spotted by @ripienaar).
Range of a 6.8km missile on Blackheath

Made using http://obeattie.github.com/gmaps-radius/

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GBAD and other acronyms

Response from Heidi Alexander to the Blackheath Missile Crisis:

Dear Blackheath Bugle,

Heidi has asked me to paste below a briefing note which I hope will answer the questions you raised in your blog post. She won’t be able to be at the Blackheath Assembly tonight because of votes in Parliament on the Health and Social Care Bill but Kevin Bonavia will have copies of the briefing to distribute this evening.

If anybody has any comments or questions about the briefing note it would be really helpful if they could be sent direct to Heidi with their postal address included.

Jamie Milne – Office Manager

London 2012 – Possible Military Defence Arrangements – Blackheath

I am sorry not to be able to attend the Blackheath Local Assembly this evening. The House of Commons is debating the Health & Social Care Bill this afternoon and I need to be present in Parliament to express my opposition to the Government’s proposals at the vote.

I know that many people have questions about the recent news that the Ministry of Defence (the MoD) are considering the use of Blackheath as part of their air security plan for the Olympics. They are exploring using Blackheath as a location for a Ground Based Air Defence System (GBAD). Continue reading

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I’ve often thought…

Blackheath Sunset

I’ve often thought, while jogging across Blackheath on a sunny spring morning, that what it needs is more airborne purveyors of fiery death.

Because, you know, all we have right now is a beautiful open space with some daisies and stuff.

Tweets by @tomroyal, (as it deserved a post all of its own).

Photo by Flickr user KhE 龙.

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Missile questions for our MPs

UPDATE: The response to this post from Heidi Alexander MP can be read here.

So we are to have missiles in our beautiful shared garden.

Clive Efford (Labour, MP for Eltham) criticised the Defence Minister for placing missiles in Olxeas Wood. But what about the ones planned on Blackheath?

Heidi Alexander (Labour, MP for Lewisham East) tweeted the following today:

MoD were looking at Blackheath suitability for potential olympic missile defence site last week. No decision yet taken. link
Have asked MoD for face to face briefing. link
I know it sounds surreal but sadly true. Nothing has been decided yet though. link
MoD describe it as some form of ground based air defence system. That’s all I know at the moment. link

Lewisham East Constituency

A commenter on my facebook page suggested the possible location of the missiles:

“The radar trial took place on Thursday just north east of the army cadet centre. the launcher was sans missile ( thank goodness)” — John Morris

As can just about be seen on the Ordnance Survey Election Maps, if the missile site is located north-east of the Territorial Army Barracks, this places it firmly in Heidi’s constituency.

However, assuming it is a Rapier missile, it has a range of 500m (seems very short to me?), meaning that it could also potentially kill people in the neighbouring “Greenwich and Woolwich Borough” constituency, the MP of which is Nick Raynsford (Labour).

I’d dearly love to attend the assembly meeting tomorrow, but I’m unlikely to be able to make it. If Heidi Alexander is at the assembly on Tuesday, here are some questions, you might like to consider asking:

* Who owns the land that the missiles will be placed on?
* Were any special orders required to place the missiles on the land?
* Who owns the missiles?
* Is there any way that you could have prevented this from happening?
* When did you first hear about it, and how was it presented to you?
* Do you think it is an appropriate course of action, taken by a supposedly sovereign nation, during peace time?

Guardian 13th Nov 2011: US officials worried about security at London 2012 Olympics

Washington’s need for reassurance is exasperating British officials and anti-terrorism officials, who have privately raised concerns about the meddling, as well as the size of the US “footprint” in the UK during the games next year.

BBC News 14th Nov 2011: Ground-to-air missiles ‘may protect’ London 2012 games

Mr Hammond was asked by his predecessor to confirm whether there would be a “full range of multilayered defence and deterrents” in place for the 2012 Games including surface-to-air missiles.

He replied: “I can assure him that all necessary measures to ensure the security and safety of the London Olympic Games will be taken including – if the advice of the military is that it is required – appropriate ground-to-air defences.”

UPDATE: Reply from Councillor Chris Maines on my facebook page:

I can confirm that there will be an opportunity to ask questions at the Blackheath Assembly tonight – a senior police officer will be present. However, this is an MOD issue and they are a difficult organisation to engage in full consultation. Since my briefing last week I have raised question at cabinet committee level although it seems as a matter of national security it is difficult to get definative responses, Cllr Chris Maines – Chair, Blackheath Assembly

UPDATE:
BBC News article including quote from Heidi Alexander about the missiles
Olympics missile sites considered for Blackheath and Shooters Hill

On Facebook, Kevin Bonavia (local councillor) says that an MoD representative will attend the Assembly tonight.

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