Actually the Brighton bomb did kill some MPs, and others, but the point is well made.
Since 1974, when the PLO tried to smuggle SAM-7s into Italy and the UK, to attack El-Al airliners, the threat of shoulder fired SAMs to airliners has been real.
I think a Rhodesian Viscount was downed by one in the 1970's.
It does appear that this latest incident was part of an effort to find and stop the supply of SAMs to potential terrorists, before networks mature.
However, those who don't think the threat is real should remind themselves of the attack on the Israeli 757 in Kenya last year, luckily the old SAM-7 copies used were not up to much, these SA
-16 and SA
-18s are much more effective, really a Stinger equivalent.
So many of these were produced, so many were not accounted for when the USSR
imploded, you get the feeling it's just a matter of time.
Now you know why troops were deployed around LHR
in Febuary, contary to the impression of news reports, most were on the perimeter, a SAM attack was expected, really it's been expected for nearly 30 years. Now however the terrorist threat is more apparent.
The US cannot account for some 400 Stingers they gave to the Afghans fighting the USSR
, officially these would now be time-expired, but it would be unwise to discount the ability of terrorists to make them workable, who would have thought of the plan to use hi-jacked planes as missiles on Sept 10th 2001?
AF1 is well protected against SAM attack, but a real plot would probably be against a US or UK civil widebody, preferably over a densely populated area, from the terrorists point of view.
Al-Queda are somewhat obsessed with targeting airliners, as we have seen.
After abortive attempts to get US Redeye and Stinger weapons, and with the Shorts factory in Northern Ireland with made the Blowpipe/Javelin and now Starstreak weapons being well guarded, (unlike US and Russian weapons these are not IR
guided and are supersonic, but require a lot of training to use), the IRA finally got SAM-7s from Libya in 1987, as revenge for the UK allowing the US to attack Libya from UK bases.
Fortunately, a shipment was stopped, others got through but British Military helicopters in N.I. got countermeasures fitted, as well as VIP aircraft and transports operating out of the area.
So the IRA never got to use them, it would not have worked for them, they would not attack a ramdom civil airliner like Al-Queda, as it would be bad PR
as well as any US casualties hitting their funding and support networks in the USA.
When the Queen visited the mid East in 1984, a BA
L1011-200 used was given a temporary fit of IR
countermeasures, with RAF support.
So this is all not so new, just more apparent and with total fanatics seeking to use them.
Sadly, it probably is just a matter of time.