A Brief History
On September 20, 2000, the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), an agency also known as MI6, suffered the indignity of being hit by a Soviet-made RPG-22 anti-tank rocket. No suspect has ever been identified or arrested.
The rocket hit the exterior of the building at the level of the 8th floor. It caused superficial damage and thankfully no injuries. Of course, the pride of James Bond, M, Q and Moneypenny was severely shaken! The anti-terrorist branch of the Metropolitan Police believed that the perpetrators belonged to the Real IRA, a breakaway group from the Provisional IRA, but did not name names or issue arrest warrants.
The RPG-22 is a disposable anti-tank rocket launcher similar to the U.S. Light Anti-Armor Weapon (LAW or LAAW) but with a diameter of 72.5mm, it is slightly larger. Capable of penetrating a meter of brick or concrete, its main intended use is to penetrate armored vehicles up to 400mm thick. (History and Headlines Note: When you see anti-armor penetration statistics, the effectiveness is based on rolled homogeneous armor. Most tanks today, however, are built with layers of material that are much harder to penetrate.) First fielded in 1985, the RPG-22 is an evolutionary successor to the RPG-18 and part of a family of disposable rocket launchers that includes the RPG-26, -27, -28 and -30.
History got it wrong, History and Headlines got it right: Many newscasters and supposed military experts on the History Channel repeatedly say that RPG stands for “rocket-propelled grenade.” It does not! It is actually the abbreviation for the Russian words that translate into “handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.”
Military Intelligence, Section 6 (MI6) is the British branch of intelligence that, like the CIA of the United States, targets foreign intelligence. The British MI5 is the domestic anti-spy agency that is the equivalent of the FBI of the U.S. The British Secret Bureau that evolved into the modern MI5 and MI6 agencies was founded in 1909. Today MI6 has a reported 3,200 employees and a classified budget.
Every so often a secret agency or law enforcement agency is embarrassed to be on the receiving end of the shenanigans of the bad guys they are supposed to be defeating. This time it was MI6’s turn, but virtually all other intelligence agencies have also had a day swhen they held the short end of the stick. Question for students (and subscribers): What embarrassing incidents involving secret agencies come to your mind? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Thomas, Gordon. Secret Wars. Griffin, 2010.