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 738.

    Maybe we have reached the point in all this in that it is no longer worth continuing with the Olympic games. They cost an inordinate amount to stage (enough to bankrupt a country), the selection process looks riddled with fiddles and brown envelopes, athletes take drugs and cheat and now they are becoming increasing targets for terrorism. Send them the same way as Jeux Sans Frontiers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    what use are they against some nut job suicide bomber dressed in a burka?
    come off it we know what this country's like, we wouldn't use them anyway it would breach some terrorists human rights and we'd have chakrabati on the case

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    Why on earth is some ill-informed, local idiot being quoted in this story?

    "Firing missiles would shower debris across London" Is he an expert on this?

    The most obvious observation being - if they are needed to be fired... Then what damage would NOT firing them do?!

    What a ridiculous comment from that man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    'Surely people would prefer a small amount of missile debris' you don't get less debris by shooting it with a missile you get more since you have to include the missile. not to mention the fact you can have burning debris which could start a firestorm, hit power equipment and ignite multiple buildings whilst all your emergency services are occupied on the other side of london.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    I do have to wonder slightly at the tactical sense of making the possible locations of the missile sites public...

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    Dope testing for Government ministers, anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    How terrible for the flat owners. Far better to allow a hijacked plan to fly into Canary Wharf, surely?

    Wonder how these flat owners would have felt, with an anti aircraft gun, and barrage balloons in '39 - 45. Probably would've moaned then!

  • Comment number 731.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    I think the gov are pretty stupid to think that an attack would take place against the Olympic events themselves, i seriously believe that if anything did happen it would be more like the tube bombings. why would any terrorist go for a heavily guarded target when they could go after many small targets safe in the knowledge that the bulk of security will be occupied at other locations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    I am a law abiding citizen, I love the Queen and support our military, I have lived in several places round the South east, but I am Welsh from the Town of Barry, I have also been lucky enough to have travelled to world, and therefore not bias. However what is the point in defending London in this way during the Olympics, if you completely ignore other Olympic sporting venues like Cardiff?

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    Reassurance!!?? The actual objective is to whip up more terror and paranoia. Montylicious,we made the world like this, by being the aggressive imperialists that we are.The Olympics is about multinational business and is probably the most corrupt sporting event of them all, meanwhile GB continues to tell everyone how to live their lives all over the place at gunpoint. Awful. Not in my name etc etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    Why do we need this?

    Surely, cuts in airport security are all about efficiency, not making things unsafe!

    Either this is an expensive smokescreen, or they've heard about a credible threat and can't (won't) afford to do anything about it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.


    "...Grow up, grow a willy, feel safe, feel free..."


    I knew a few people like that. Always felt safe no matter what they did. They're all dead now, to a man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    The RAF Regiment did, but has not for a long time operated the Rapier missile system as reported on this news page - shows you the inaccuracies of the BBC News reporters when you have knowledge about their reports. Can you believe anything else that they report on that you might not have specialist knowledge about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    Will this interfere with Pirate Radio?

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    War, what is it good for, absolutely nothing.

    Thanks Edwin Starr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    Fact: We have the Olympics and they're going ahead regardless of public opinion.
    Fact: There is a constant threat from terrorism 365 days a year.
    So why take chances at what is probably going to be the most well attended and viewed event in the world this year. I think an attack is unlikely, but if there was an incident from the air surely it's best to have a a last resort to reduce collateral?

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    I think we should give the Olympics as much support as it can, it is an inspiration to our youth, I support it and them, I wish it much success. and any action that makes it a safe games for everyone. I have never been to an Olympics and now in my lifetime, I never will, as I was refused tickets. I couldnt even get as job there.
    I hope those who have them will enjoy it as much as I would have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    I wonder how much this will be adding to the overall cost of the Olympics.

    Am I wrong in thinking that the UK has no money left? After all we can afford:
    - the Olympics (way over budget).
    - a new "Star Wars (UK)" project to protect the Olympics.
    - tax cuts for those at the very top.

    Perhaps "we" have to put these missiles in place to keep those who are paying for the games under control!

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    How political is this?
    Rapier missles have a range of only 6-12 km. By the time they aquire the target and got permission to fire the aircraft would either be out of range or hit the target. This is not air defence this is self defence!!

    We do not have any credible air defence unless we have a navy frigate in the Thames wiht long range air defence batteries!
    This is a political stunt nothing more


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