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 598.

    If the Americans are inolved as suggested, I take it someone will remember to warn them, that all those flashes and bangs during the open ceremony are intentional...

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    So IF they are needed and shoot a plane down it will be what, a few tens in east London streets. But without them it will be a few thousand in the Olympic stadium. I hope people can see that.
    Know wants to see anyone die or be killed. But sometimes you have to put people at risk to save a lot more. Let hope they are not needed, and as other have said well done to the MOD to having a good plan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    >To those who are moaning that blowing up a rogue aircraft over London >is not a good idea - can anyone suggest a realistic and viable >alternative? (i.e. not including cancelling the Games)

    I thought that RAF still is alive in UK, and that RAF probably has modern fighters in service... perhaps I was wrong in this and RAF retired long ago - so the use of surface-to-air missiles is the last chance

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    Exploding in the air and falling over a wide area is more preferable to exploding in an arena of 80,000 people as the forces involved will be dissapated. An arena crash will be contained by the structure & will kill a huge number of people just by the force of the blast alone irrespective of the shrapnel & buring fuel flying about, plus the panic to get out of the stadium & structure collapse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    It would be totally irresponsible of "our "security forces if they didn't plan this type of counter-terrorism event.
    Obviously sensible folk don't want the missile bases to be used but unfortunately in the world we live in there are many potential opportunists who could try and take advantage of the Olympics and hit "soft" targets
    We need to be alert and prepared for all eventualities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    How much more will this add to the total cost of funding this overpriced sports day?

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    583. gormacdubes

    Retired Dear boy, Retired.

    My original comment wasn't actually address to you. But I can see how you might think it was.

    Anyway things to do so Crown yourself King of the net and keep up the good work stretching minds with your erudite wit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    So now there will be no security as the plans have been published for all the world including agitators to see, Prats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    My concern is that the queues at Heathrow will be so long that the athletes won't be in time for the events.
    May I just point out that it most definitely will not be Theresa May's fault when that happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.


    Admittedly there is a problem with inbreeding in Bradford but that's not linked to the indigenous population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    So the MoD has permission to shoot down an aircraft full of civilians? That's interesting.

  • Comment number 587.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    I love to look at Miss Cyles. I prefer that to the Olympic Bill we'll have to pay for years to come because we, the brainless voters, were told the games would only cost 10% of their real cost. And now I want to look again at my Miss Cyles centrefold. So there's still nice things in life...

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    @579.Tsunami of Logic

    "the image of the UK is at stake here."
    What, our image as a bunch of inbreds with bad teeth who act as USA's bat-boy in their global oppression? How can that image be made worse?

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    Starstreak has a maximim range of 7km. A beoing 737 can do over 850 jm per hour flat out. The missile operators therefore have a 30 second window before impact to engage the aircraft, By the time they do that the plane will already be on its final trajectory amd shooting it down will do little more than spread the wreckage over a wider area on the target site.

    The missiles are ornamental.

  • Comment number 583.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    If the concern is so great they could of course close down Heathrow, and possibly Gatwick, Stanstead for the duration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    I really do wonder why terrorist bother.
    If their case is so strong for whatever it is they want, why not pursue the matter through the courts. Instead of killing aid workers, kidnapping elderly people, living in a Country they hate, or posting dull witted incontinent comments on websites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    Fully laden 747 MTOW is around 430 tons.
    Normal speed below 10,000 ft is max 250 kts. (287 mph).
    The 747 would cease flying and start falling in bits, big bits, small bits, bits of everything including passengers, huge fireball.
    287mph is approx 421 ft per sec, from 3000 feet, hit ground say 10 secs later.
    Huge mess, hundreds of fires started, many dead on ground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    Hopefully there will also be squads of sharpshooters ready to act if any trade unionists or other political extremists try to use the Olympics to publicise their warped aims.

    Any disruption must be dealt with the utmost severity - the image of the UK is at stake here. We cannot let anarchists tarnish this magnificent event!


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