UK — Ground-based air defence systems to protect Olympic sites

The Gov­ern­ment has today con­firmed that ground-based air defence sys­tems will be deployed at six sites in and around Lon­don for the dura­tion of the 2012 Olympic Games.

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The Starstreak high veloc­i­ty mis­sile sys­tem is part of the ground-based air defence mea­sures which will pro­vide secu­ri­ty dur­ing the Lon­don Olympics [Pic­ture: Graeme Main, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge
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As part of the Min­istry of Defence’s wide-rang­ing sup­port to the police-led Olympics secu­ri­ty effort, the Defence Sec­re­tary announced last year that an air secu­ri­ty plan had been drawn up which includ­ed the poten­tial deploy­ment of Rapi­er and high veloc­i­ty mis­sile sys­tems, pri­mar­i­ly to pro­tect the Olympic Park.

In ear­ly May, as part of a mil­i­tary exer­cise, unarmed equip­ment was put in place at the six pro­posed sites for a peri­od of nine days. This saw the air secu­ri­ty plan test­ed exten­sive­ly and con­firmed the util­i­ty and inte­gra­tion of the var­i­ous ele­ments.

As a result, based on mil­i­tary advice, the Gov­ern­ment has now agreed to the deploy­ment of ground-based air defence sys­tems — includ­ing Rapi­er and high veloc­i­ty mis­sile sys­tems — at the six loca­tions for the dura­tion of the Games.

The sys­tems will be in place by mid-July, along with oth­er Defence equip­ment includ­ing Roy­al Navy heli­copter car­ri­er HMS Ocean, which will be moored in the Riv­er Thames, Roy­al Air Force Typhoon jets, which will be tem­porar­i­ly sta­tioned at RAF Northolt, and Puma heli­copters at a Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Army cen­tre in Ilford.

Defence Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond said:

“Whilst there is no report­ed threat to the Lon­don Olympics, the pub­lic expects that we put in place a range of mea­sures aimed at ensur­ing the safe­ty and secu­ri­ty of this once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion event. Ground-based air defence [GBAD] sys­tems will form just one part of a com­pre­hen­sive, mul­ti-lay­ered air secu­ri­ty plan which, I believe, will pro­vide both reas­sur­ance and a pow­er­ful deter­rent.

“We have under­tak­en a wide pro­gramme of engage­ment with the com­mu­ni­ties affect­ed, involv­ing rel­e­vant local author­i­ties, landown­ers, MPs, coun­cil lead­ers and com­mu­ni­ty meet­ings. These have shown that, while peo­ple under­stand­ably have ques­tions and con­cerns which we have sought to answer, broad­ly speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties are sup­port­ive of our work.

“A small num­ber of activists object to the deploy­ment of these defen­sive mea­sures and a legal chal­lenge to the Government’s deci­sion to deploy GBAD has been ini­ti­at­ed. The MOD will defend these pro­ceed­ings vig­or­ous­ly and is con­fi­dent of defeat­ing them.”

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The Rapi­er mis­sile sys­tem is to be deployed in and around Lon­don dur­ing the Olympics [Pic­ture: Cor­po­ral Dylan ‘Bob’ Browne RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Home Sec­re­tary There­sa May said:

“Our focus is to deliv­er an Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games that Lon­don, the UK and the world can enjoy. The Games should be a peace­ful cel­e­bra­tion of sport­ing achieve­ment and cul­tur­al cel­e­bra­tion.

“But this is the biggest sport­ing event in the world, and with that comes the huge respon­si­bil­i­ty to deliv­er it safe­ly and secure­ly. We are work­ing to a robust safe­ty and secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy and we will leave noth­ing to chance.

“The police and emer­gency ser­vices have sub­stan­tial expe­ri­ence of major events and will bring this to bear with sup­port from the mil­i­tary. Our approach is intel­li­gence-led and risk-based, and flex­i­ble to respond to changes between now and the Games.”

Col­lec­tive­ly, the sys­tems include a range of air defence capa­bil­i­ties, includ­ing radar and detec­tion equip­ment as well as weapons, which will pro­vide a pow­er­ful deter­rent and pro­tec­tion against the threat of an attack from the air. Sim­i­lar sys­tems have been deployed at all recent Olympic Games.

Some 100 sites were con­sid­ered as part of ear­ly plan­ning but this was nar­rowed down to the six final sites which were deemed to offer the best pos­si­ble pro­tec­tion to the Olympic Park and sur­round­ing area against any air threat.

The sites, and the spe­cif­ic sys­tems to be deployed at them, are:

  • Lex­ing­ton Build­ing, Fair­field Road, Bow, Tow­er Ham­lets — High Veloc­i­ty Mis­sile
  • Fred Wigg Tow­er, Mon­tague Road Estate, Waltham For­est — High Veloc­i­ty Mis­sile
  • Black­heath Com­mon, Black­heath (Lewisham/Greenwich) — Rapi­er
  • William Girling Reser­voir, Lea Val­ley Reser­voir Chain, Enfield — Rapi­er
  • Oxleas Mead­ow, Shoot­ers Hill, Greenwich/Woolwich — Rapi­er
  • Barn Hill, Nether­house Farm, Epping For­est — Rapi­er.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK