UK military shows off missiles to protect Olympics

London: On a muddy field on the outskirts of London, Britain`s military showed off a weapon today it hopes it never has to use. The Rapier surface-to-air missile has the power to take down a Boeing 747 full of passengers if needed to protect a stadium full of 80,000 Olympic spectators in a terrorism nightmare scenario.

The British military has insisted that the missiles with a range of up to 8,000 meters (five miles) could be deployed as the last line of defense. Experts say the likelihood that they will be fired is slim to none. Downing an aircraft would still cause debris to rain from the sky, high casualties and fires.

"When you launch a Rapier missile and shoot down an aircraft, it`s not like the whole thing vanishes. It`s 100 tons of metal, scraps, and other stuff that is coming down," said Jan Wind, a retired Dutch Navy captain who is director of the Hague-based Wiser Consultancy.

"If a Rapier is used, the damage could be just about the same as the intentions of the terrorist only on another spot. The goal of the terrorists will be met in a certain sense," Wind said. It`s rare for the British military to publicize the location of its weapons, but the military says it hopes that any potential attacks will be deterred by showing the missile strength and other defense assets such as Typhoon fighter jets.

Ground-to-air missiles have been a fixture of Olympic games and large VIP events in the post-9/11 world, but London`s missiles have sparked outrage among residents of an apartment block who learned that the Rapiers might be stationed on their roof.

They say the missiles are creating a climate of fear which security experts suggest is exactly the point. That`s because the systems are more valuable as deterrents than as deployed weapons, Wind said. (AP)


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