Codenamed Taurus Mountain 2, the exercise tested the ability of the Armed Forces to respond to an airborne threat. It involved RAF Typhoon aircraft and helicopters being scrambled to intercept and identify a suspicious aircraft, guided by controllers and observers based both in the air and on the ground.
Mr Hammond observed the exercise from an RAF E-3D Sentry aircraft on a two-hour mission flying from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
He then met some of the Armed Forces personnel who will be manning aircraft, radars and other equipment as part of Defence’s contribution to the Home Office and police-led security plan to enable a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games later this year.
The Air Security Plan is multilayered and based on the existing arrangements in place to ensure UK airspace is protected. From bases across the UK, powerful, ground-based radars combine with sophisticated surveillance aircraft to provide a detailed picture of what is going on in UK airspace.
Typhoon aircraft - which are always on alert around the clock throughout the year - are joined by sniper-carrying helicopters to provide a powerful system to intercept, identify and respond to any potential threat which might emerge.
Air Vice-Marshal Stuart Atha is the Air Component Commander, the senior RAF officer charged with delivering the Air Security Plan.
Of course, providing air security over the UK is something the RAF does every minute of the day, every day of the year.
Today’s exercise, which sees us operating alongside both Army and Royal Navy colleagues and assets, allows us to develop our existing procedures to meet the particular requirements of the Olympics, and thus ensure that we play our part in delivering a safe and secure Games.
Armed Forces units taking part in the exercise included:
- Typhoon jets from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire
- Puma helicopters from RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, with sniper teams from the RAF Regiment based at RAF Honington, Suffolk
- Royal Navy Lynx helicopters from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, Somerset
- Royal Navy Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Cornwall
- E-3D Sentry aircraft from RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
- Air Surveillance and Control System (ground-based radar) from RAF Boulmer, Northumberland
- Air Control Centre (ground-based radar) from RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire
- Joint Ground-Based Air Defence (missile systems) of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, from North Luffenham, Rutland
- Grob Tutor aircraft from RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire.
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