Collateral Damage……

2 May

Typhoon Fighter Jets will begin exercises overLondon today in the lead up to the Olympic and Paralympic anti-terrorism security operation.  For obvious reasons the full details of any security measures are classified but the deployment of Rapier surface to air missiles and use of Typhoon fighters point toward the possibility that any 9/11 style attack could be countered by the shooting down of the target.  Although this is extremely unlikely to happen, it does raise an important issue for the safety of people on the ground……

The Complete Vaporisation of an incoming threat is not possible with any of the existing hardware at the disposal of the military.  Vaporisation could only be achieved with a nuclear device and any device large enough to vaporise an aircraft or missile would not be a localised event.  That leaves only one option, assuming anyone deranged enough to attempt such an attack would be undeterred by the threat to their own lives or that the incoming target is autonomous, which is to shoot it down……

The Implications of Intercepting a Target over the centre of our capitol city is almost incomprehensible.  Depending on the size of the target and where it is shot down will determine the area affected by any falling debris and resulting fires caused by the fuel.   In the worst case scenario, if the device contained a ‘dirty’ element, the immediate problem of falling debris and fire would be further complicated by airborne contamination. 

The likelihood of an attack of this nature happening is, I hope, extremely remote but the fact that missiles are being deployed and the RAF are preparing indicates that the Government have considered it a possibility, presumably having taken the advice of the security services……

Giving the Order to Engage an Incoming Target will, I assume, ultimately be the responsibility of the Prime Minister as the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces.  It is an interesting conundrum to contemplate.  Working on the assumption that a situation arises whereby an incoming target has been identified and all of the alternatives have been eliminated; an aircraft is now over a heavily populated area heading toward the Olympic stadium……

How do you make the decision and what might influence the decision you make?

Consider the following:  According to the official website the Olympic Stadium has a capacity of 80,000.  At the most popular events, for example the 100m final, as many as 1/3rd of the seats have been allocated to dignitaries and sponsors.  The Prime Minister is likely to attend.

If the aircraft impacted with the accuracy demonstrated on 9/11 at the Pentagon, how many potential casualties would there be?  Although impossible to predict with 100% accuracy, I imagine it could be around 1/3rd.  How many people could be affected if the aircraft was shot down?  Again, it is impossible to predict and would depend on many factors such as the height, location and speed.  How long would it take to evacuate the stadium and where would you evacuate people to?

I would not want to be faced with a decision like this.  If it did happen the political fallout could be huge.  The accusation that one group of people was sacrificed to save another will undoubtedly be raised.  The fact that the stadium may well have contained politicians, royalty and even the man who gave the order, could be an awkward situation, particularly if the number casualties exceed my prediction of 1/3rd of the stadium’s capacity……

A Final Observation……

On 9/11 theUSmilitary were conducting an exercise based on commercial aircraft being hijacked and used as missiles against civilian targets……

On 7/7 the emergency services were conducting an exercise to test their response to a terrorist attack……

I’ve heard the Lake District’s nice in July……

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