UK — Major exercise tests Olympics security preparations

A major mil­i­tary and civil­ian exer­cise is tak­ing place this week to help make the Lon­don 2012 Olympic Games as safe and secure as pos­si­ble.

An RAF Puma fly­ing over the 2012 Olympic Sta­di­um (stock image) [Pic­ture: Senior Air­craft­man Phil Major, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Exer­cise Olympic Guardian, which takes place on land, at sea and in the air in the Lon­don and Wey­mouth areas, will see a wide range of capa­bil­i­ties rehearsed in a delib­er­ate and orches­trat­ed man­ner over a nine-day peri­od.

The Sec­re­tary of State for Defence, 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.”

Run­ning from 2 to 10 May, span­ning the bank hol­i­day week­end, most of the exer­cise will be played out in the pub­lic domain and the mil­i­tary aspects of it will result in a vis­i­ble pres­ence of Armed Forces per­son­nel, ships and air­craft.

This will include:

  • the berthing of HMS Ocean at Green­wich, with a num­ber of Roy­al Navy Lynx heli­copters embarked
  • the deploy­ment of HMS Bul­wark and oth­er mar­itime assets to Wey­mouth Bay and Port­land Har­bour
  • the bas­ing of RAF Typhoon fast jets and Roy­al Navy air­borne ear­ly warn­ing heli­copters at RAF Northolt, and RAF Puma heli­copters at a Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Army cen­tre in Ilford
  • the oper­a­tion of fast jets and heli­copters over Greater Lon­don and the Home Coun­ties
  • the deploy­ment of ground-based air defence sys­tems, fit­ted with prac­tice drill mis­siles, along with air observ­er teams, to a num­ber of sites in Lon­don.

The exer­cise will be played out in three phas­es — the first cen­tred on Wey­mouth, the sec­ond in the air­space over Lon­don and sur­round­ing coun­ties, and the final phase on the Thames.

For some time, com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment work has been ongo­ing in affect­ed areas to inform local res­i­dents of pos­si­ble dis­tur­bances and to explain the rea­sons for the activ­i­ty. In par­tic­u­lar, there will be min­i­mal low-fly­ing by var­i­ous mil­i­tary air­craft. This will be car­ried out at times which keep dis­tur­bances to the min­i­mum pos­si­ble.

Stand­ing Joint Com­man­der (UK), Gen­er­al Sir Nick Park­er, said:

“I know that mem­bers of the Armed Forces are pleased to be able to make an appro­pri­ate con­tri­bu­tion to the once-in-a-life­time event that is Lon­don 2012. It’s entire­ly prop­er that, as nation­al insti­tu­tions which serve our coun­try, we are seen to be help­ing to make the Lon­don Olympics a resound­ing suc­cess.”

Assis­tant Com­mis­sion­er Chris Alli­son, Nation­al Olympic Secu­ri­ty Coor­di­na­tor, said:

“Test­ing and exer­cis­ing is vital to get­ting our safe­ty and secu­ri­ty oper­a­tion for the Games right. We need to be con­fi­dent that we have the right peo­ple in the right places, and that we under­stand how oth­ers oper­ate.

“This is a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to deliv­er a world class oper­a­tion that keeps the Games, and the coun­try, safe and secure.”

As part of the exer­cise, activ­i­ty can be expect­ed at a num­ber of sites in and around Lon­don which have been iden­ti­fied as poten­tial loca­tions for the deploy­ment of ground-based air defence sys­tems.

No final deci­sion has been tak­en by the Gov­ern­ment as to whether this capa­bil­i­ty will be deployed as part of Olympics secu­ri­ty arrange­ments but it does form part of Exer­cise Olympic Guardian.

The fol­low­ing sites have been iden­ti­fied as poten­tial loca­tions for ground-based air defence sys­tems should the Gov­ern­ment decide to deploy them for the dura­tion of the Olympics:

  • Lex­ing­ton Build­ing, Fair­field Road, Bow, Tow­er Ham­lets — high veloc­i­ty mis­siles
  • Fred Wigg Tow­er, Mon­tague Road Estate, Waltham For­est — high veloc­i­ty mis­siles
  • 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