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 698.


    If the RAF did need to practice on small objects then I'm sure Gormacdubes wouldn't mind donating his brain or something else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    typical of this gov to go overboard with unneccessary policies.
    I'd presume if an unauthorised aircraft gets that close, it would be met by Fighter planes b4 it reaches london. & in that case, the pilot would shoot it down. if it gets that close that a sam is reqd, then it's too late. a missile hitting an aircraft will cause debris to fall possibly injuring many. the biggest threat is ground based

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    What if they attach bombs to trained pigens . can the missles hit anything that small?

  • Comment number 695.

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

  • Comment number 694.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    To all you idiots who think its ok for debris over Esat London rather than kill a lot of people. What do you think that debris will do to the residents of East London shower them with candy floss ? A blown up plane falling on east London will still kill a lot of people but apparently to a lot of people thats ok as long as its not Olympic Park.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    God forbid some lunatic or terrorist does decide to fly a large aircraft into the 'Shard' or one of the Olympic sites and a missile is launched, who's going to put up nets to catch hundreds of tons of falling aircraft and gallons of blazing aviation fuel, will they get them up in the right place before the aircraft crashes onto hundreds of innocent people and dwellings. I don't think so!


  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    To be honest part of the opening should be a display of our power. I'd like to see a few Apache gunships patroling the stadiums... Heck I'd prefer it if there were a few flying over 24/7.

    And those who critizise will be the frist to go 'hey! why were they not ready! this could have been avoided if they'd just XXXX' The Chinese had MASSES of military power guarding the olympics in bejing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    in 2013 there is the rugby league world cup will the armed forces be out for that don't think so oh ye and there is Wimbledon every yr that attracts many country's oh and i have just seen that London is to host the UEFA champions league final maybe there are more major sporting events been held next yr will the missiles be around to protect ppl then doubt it so now why and why the Olympics

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    comment NO 678

    Hi paulmerhaba really cracked me up with your comment...I'm in

    fits of laughter...oh my jaws ache hehe :) Aaa...they could have my

    spare pair of speks too...they would help them spot anything getting

    too close, there great...the magnification is x50 they could spot a

    mosey at 2000ft. :D

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    No surprise we're the 4th biggest spender on defence in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    When I find myself asking who 'the enemy' might be, it's no comfort to me to find that top of the list are the people merrily enjoying the privilege of tax-funded luxury masquerading as our 'government'.
    If this view does not fit with whatever delusion you still labour under then I can only suggest that you are in for some bigger shocks than I am.
    Some tried to help you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    Hope the missiles are more effective than labours emergency questions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    There will be no terrorist attacks at the Olympics. When there isnt a terrorist attack the homeoffice should apologize to every UK taxpayer for wasting their money, and all of them involved in the decision making process should resign,as these Olympics will make us look like a nation which promoted rape (through unlawful touching), paedophilia and we will look like China. Nice advert for London?

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    Stuff the olympics and stuff this 'war on terror' IDIOCY.
    We have a warmongering profiteering rulig-class, suprise, DUMP them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    Its a great idea to protect the games with these surface to air missiles, honestly I am very happy this is happening, but surely if the aim was to defend from terrorist attacks then the location should be secret and away from civilians. In case they are targeted. My suggestion would be to put the missile batteries in armed forces, naval and air force bases nearby and not tell anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    Prevention is always better than trying to explain away afterwards 'why nothing worked; because there was nothing to prevent any occurrence of an attack happening in the first place!
    However...I think it is not humanly possible to cover every 'foreseeable' event & no doubt there will be some looney group or organisation that will rear it's ugly head & cause mayhem.
    Personally I opt to stay away :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    4th bullet point - you have spelt Northolt incorrectly (there is only one h)

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.


    We are also angry about our innocent countrymen and women being atomised on our mass transit system in our capital city.

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    Wow, they are so paranoid. Why not just have armed police?

    I can't wait for 2013. I hope nothing big happens next year.


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