Olympic Security Safety
The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook is currently gathering news items for a major feature in the next edition on the security build-up to the Summer Olympics in London
Whilst the bulk of the security effort for the London Olympics will be “blue” protection, handled by the Police Service, the Ministry of Defence will be deploying personnel and assets in conjunction with the police to guard against terrorist attacks.
Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond announced in December the extent to which Britain's Armed Forces will support the security effort for the Olympic and Paralympic Games which will start at the end of July 2012.
While the safety and security operation for the Games remains for the police to lead on, the Defence contribution to Olympics security will include specialist capabilities which only the military can provide, as well as some more general support.
In total, the MOD expects to provide up to 13,500 personnel, and the Defence assets that will be deployed include:
• HMS Ocean, the largest ship in the Royal Navy's fleet, which will be berthed in the Thames at Greenwich, providing logistics support, accommodation and a helicopter landing site
• HMS Bulwark, in Weymouth Bay, providing maritime command and control, accommodation, helicopter and small boat basing, and logistics supply
• Typhoon jets, stationed temporarily at RAF Northolt in London, and helicopters, likely to be Puma and Lynx, operating from HMS Ocean to support airspace security
• appropriate ground-based air defence capabilities also to support the airspace security effort.
In early January, Mr Hammond visited Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel in the south west of England today to hear about local plans for the Games and to discuss security at the Weymouth Olympic venue.
Mr Hammond said: "The Royal Navy will form an integral part of the security operation around Weymouth during the Games, with HMS Bulwark and RFA Mounts Bay and a contingent of Royal Marines assisting the Dorset Police in securing the area."
Then later the same month Royal Marines from 539 Assault Squadron (539 ASRM) took part in exercises with the Metropolitan Police's Marine Policing Unit (MPU) on the River Thames near Woolwich Arsenal Pier as part of ongoing safety and security planning. The Olympic security training exercise on the River Thames in London involved nearly 100 Royal Marines, 44 officers from the Metropolitan Police, a Force Firearms Unit and Air Support Unit, and, from the Marine Policing Unit: 4 rigid inflatable boats; a command and control launch and a Targa patrol craft. Also taking part were various military marine craft, including: 4 offshore raiding craft; 2 Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel; 2 rigid inflatable boats; a patrol boat and a Navy Lynx helicopter.
The security training continued at the end of January with Royal Air Force and Royal Navy aircraft in operation over the skies of Yorkshire as part of a major training exercise codenamed Exercise Taurus Mountain 1. It saw fast jet and helicopter pilots put through their paces as they practiced operating alongside one another. Other military aircraft also took part in the exercise in supporting roles.
Wing Commander Paul Godfrey, in charge of operations at RAF Coningsby, said: “We take great pride in the fact that we have a key role to play in providing airspace security for the Olympics, and these training flights are part of our training for that important task as we prepare to forward deploy to RAF Northolt later in the year.
"Typhoon is a very potent fighter aircraft - among the most modern and capable of any air force anywhere in the world.
"I know that the Typhoon Force - many of whom have recently returned from combat operations over Libya - will discharge their duties with great professionalism as part of Defence's overall mission to provide a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games."
The range of aircraft involved in the exercise included: two Typhoon jets from RAF Coningsby; two Puma helicopters from RAF Benson; two Lynx helicopters from Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton; one Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopter from RNAS Culdrose; two Grob Tutor aircraft from RAF Leeming; one Sentry E-3D aircraft from RAF Waddington.
The air security plan for the Olympic Games is multilayered and will see Typhoon aircraft forward-based at London's RAF Northolt, helicopters operating from HMS Ocean on the River Thames, and appropriate ground-based air defence systems across London.
Again in the skies over North Yorkshire, in March Exercise Taurus Mountain 3 put airmen, soldiers and sailors through their paces. The exercise took place over three days and the forces practiced detecting and intercepting an aircraft that intrudes into restricted airspace.
The exercise integrates the additional forces being used to ensure the safety of the Olympics, as part of the Ministry of Defence's role to ensure a safe and secure Games this summer. These include RAF Puma aircraft - together with Royal Navy and Army Lynx helicopters - carrying teams of RAF Regiment snipers to intercept aircraft in restricted airspace, and airborne surveillance aircraft including Royal Navy Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters and RAF E-3D Sentry aircraft.
On the ground, the RAF is providing additional mobile ground radar systems, while the Army is deploying air observers and Rapier and Starstreak missile systems, which also provide additional detection capability, though a final decision on their deployment has yet to be taken.
Armed forces personnel were joined by officers from the Metropolitan Police, who are leading security for the whole Games. Military activity, including the Air Security Plan, supports the overall police operation, so the exercise was a chance for both the police and military to learn more about how the other operates.
Air Commodore Gary Waterfall, the Deputy Air Component Commander, said:
"Whilst there is no specific threat to the Games, we have to be ready for whatever occurs and play our part in what will be a safe and secure Olympics for all to enjoy. Our multi-layered security plan means that we have a range of responses available to us, ensuring we can deal appropriately with anything from redirecting an aircraft that may have strayed into restricted airspace, to preventing an attack."
And this week a major military and civilian exercise, Exercise Olympic Guardian, is taking place on land, at sea and in the air in the London and Weymouth areas. This will see a wide range of capabilities rehearsed in a deliberate and orchestrated manner over a nine-day period.
Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said: "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.
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.
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.
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."