London 2012: Major Olympic security test unveiled

The water tower, which contains flats The Lexington Building Water Tower in Tower Hamlets is one of the sites

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Details of a major Olympic security exercise involving the deployment of Royal Navy ships, RAF helicopters and jets have been unveiled.

Exercise Olympic Guardian takes place on land, sea and air in the London and Weymouth areas between 2 and 10 May.

It has also been revealed that surface-to-air missiles could be deployed at six sites during the games.

Dummy missiles will be placed on two buildings in east London and four other sites as part of the exercise.

The sites, chosen from an original list of 100, include the Lexington Building in Tower Hamlets and the Fred Wigg Tower in Waltham Forest, east London.

The four other London sites identified as suitable for Rapier missiles are Blackheath Common; Oxleas Wood, Eltham; William Girling Reservoir, Enfield and Barn Hill in Epping Forest.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

The Ministry of Defence has stressed that the government has not yet decided to deploy ground-based air defence systems during the Games.

Brian Whelan, a resident of one of the east London estates, said firing the missiles "would shower debris across the east end of London".

Standing joint commander General Sir Nick Parker said the decision on the missiles would be taken "at the very highest political level".

Referring to this week's exercise he said the military advice to the government "will depend on the success of that test".

Asked whether debris would fall on urban areas if a missile was fired, Gen Parker said: "I accept that this is a very, very challenging situation."

At a security briefing it was also announced this week's exercise will include:

  • The berthing of HMS Ocean at Greenwich, with a number of Royal Navy Lynx helicopters on board
  • The deployment of HMS Bulwark and other ships to Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour
  • The basing of RAF Typhoon fast jets at RAF Northolt, west London
  • Helicopters carrying snipers also based at RAF Northholt
  • Royal Navy airborne early warning helicopters and RAF Puma helicopters at a Territorial Army centre in Ilford, east London
  • The operation of fast jets and helicopters over Greater London and the Home Counties
  • 13,500 military personnel will be involved in protecting the games

The exercise will be split into three phases, starting at Weymouth, where the 2012 sailing competitions will be staged, then testing the defence of London's airspace, and finally a major event on the River Thames.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "Support for the Olympic Games will be an important task for defence in 2012 and this exercise is about pushing our people and our systems to the limit to ensure that we are ready for the challenge.

"The majority of this exercise will be played out in full view of the public and I hope that it will have a secondary effect of reassuring the British people that everything possible is being done to ensure this will be a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games."


 Rapier missile being test fired
  • Rapier is a Short Range Air Defence System (Shorad) developed by MBDA (previously Matra BAe Dynamics)
  • It is in service with the Royal Artillery and the RAF
  • It is a 24-hour, all-weather guided weapon system designed to destroy aircraft, helicopters or missiles
  • There are Rapier batteries in several locations in the Falklands to defend against air attacks
'Sensible plan'

Gen Parker said there must be a plan which could deal with "the unlikely but very serious threat" that might exist to the Olympic Park.

He explained: "It's an air threat, really categorised in two ways, the sort of 9/11 threat everyone knows about, and also for the lower, slower type of target which might pop up closer to the Olympic Park, which we would need to intervene."

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, the National Olympic Security Coordinator, said: "This is about trying to put in place a proportionate, necessary and sensible plan.

"The purpose of the exercise is to test whether they will work or not and then to make recommendations to the ministers because obviously, it has to have final approval from the ministers and not ourselves."

The overall 23,700-strong security force for the Games includes a mix of military, private security guards and at least 3,000 London 2012 volunteers who will be used at the start of the security process.

There will be 7,500 military personnel who are set to be deployed inside venues to do screening and search tasks, largely in the vehicle search areas.

Potential missile sites
Missile sites

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  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    ok this country gets dumber and dumber - lets let the terriosts plan where they can now cause destruction - you never see countries like china or greece declaring where all their weapsons and missiles will be - just sums this country up WHAT A JOKE !!!!!!!!!! -all the locations in london - YOU CHOOSE FLATS - well done

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    Can't we just wrap Eric Pickles around the Olympic venue?At least he'd be doing something useful for once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    It is very reassuring to know that all these measures are in hand to protect all those visiting the Olympic events, be they spectators, performers or contestants, & of course our MPs are already well protected with those ugly barriers around Westminster. However there is something known as the soft underbelly which in this case is the rest of us, i.e. the UK taxpayers who are funding all this.....

  • Comment number 575.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    interesting comments, just thinking; the max range of rapier is 15 kms; normal target profile for the rapier 2000 is a high speed jet weight around 14,5 tons (eurofighter) - modern passenger planes, jumbo for instance, are 379 tons; that is approximately 25 times greater....what would the effect be of even four missiles out of the tube launched at a plane given the momentum of a jet liner?

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    This isn't EastEnders, this is real life, and unfortunately there are some nasty people out there who wouldn't think twice about crashing an airliner into the stadium.

    This is a fully justified and sensible precaution, and those who bemoan the cost or "falling debris" need to have a reality check.

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    Will the bill for this security be handed to the IOC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    I can't help but feel that some people are missing the points.

    1) By having SAM batteries in known and well announced places with limited access it is possible to keep an eye out for anyone who pays undue attention to them for the wrong reasons.
    2) Announcing the locations in public areas doesn't preclude there being other defences that aren't on public display: TA or MOD buildings for example

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    Surface-to-air missiles might be intended to deter an airborne incursion, but I'm sure that in that event they wouldn't actually be fired. Either due to the risk of bringing down an aircraft over a heavily populated city, or more likely inertia and hesitation in the chain of command, or both. RAF patrols further away from London make sense, but there are greater threats than attack from aircraft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    There are plenty of higher tower blocks in the vicinty of the Olympic site, maybe the onsite swimming pool, spa, bar, restaurant, shops and private gardens helped them make up their minds when choosing this site for their missiles?

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    We may also need to guard against some nutter jumping into the lake and ruining the rowing finals. Ditto marathon, road cycling, etc.
    Basically all the ne'er do wells, protest groups and individuals will be seeing how they can wreck the games for their own publicity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    No, the answer is to stop accepting the Governments, increasingly paranoid securitization of a fictive state. The forth coming event is a sporting one and as such, should not be used to underpin the paranoia of an imagined threat. However, if such a threat does exist, a long term solution, such as revisiting Governmental policies would clearly out-way short term confrontational gain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    That's the price we pay for the power of the AIPAC lobby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    People are being mugged, robbed, stabbed, shot and and killed. People are poor begging for change at street corners. People are homeless, can't afford to live well. Why isn't there any missiles or social security, police security or policy measures to protect people in Britain?

  • Comment number 564.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    85. Blackhawks

    It would be useful if we had some aircraft capable of taking off and landing from waste ground around the venues....


    Try a helicopter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    Thing is, these terrorists don't actually have to DO anything to make a total nightmare of everything - they just have to hint and sit back, laughing at us. They don't have to raise a finger, we do all their work for them. They win by default - and they know it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    Blackheath Common. My father was in the Home Guard and manned a Z Battery on Blackheath Common. They claim to have shot down the first V1 to make it to London and several more subsequently.
    So bring on the Rapiers. The Common has Form!

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    Alot of people bleating on about Iraq here. Stop talking nonsense!!

    Had that jackanape Blair allowed our army to go in hard against the insurgents the outcome of the war in Basra would have been very different.

    Instead he baulked at the critical moment and the rest is history!

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Can this really be worth it? For running races? How much will it cost? Is that to be added to the £9bn it has cost to prepare the stadia etc? No wonder fags keep going up.


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