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Typhoon fighter jets arrived at RAF Northolt today to take part in a major military exercise to test security for the forthcoming London Olympic Games.
This is the first time fighter planes have been stationed at RAF Northolt since the Second World War.
The jets’ arrival marks the start of specialist training which will result in increased flying activity over London and the Home Counties.
Codenamed Olympic Guardian, the nine-day exercise will put airmen, soldiers and sailors through their paces in the skies over the South East. The exercise runs from 2 to 10 May, and it is likely that people will notice an increase in highly visible air activity (particularly on 5 and 6 May).
The exercise will test the procedures military aircrews will use to intercept and communicate with aircraft breaching restricted airspace during the Olympics, and the actions they must take in response. Pilots entering restricted airspace can expect to be intercepted by Typhoon fighters or military helicopters.
The air security plan for the Olympic Games builds on the Royal Air Force’s existing defence of UK airspace, which includes round-the-clock radar surveillance and Typhoon fighters held at high readiness every day of the year.
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.
• the Typhoon fighters which arrived at RAF Northolt today
• 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 RAF E-3D Sentry aircraft and Royal Navy Sea King ASaC (Airborne Surveillance and Control) helicopters.
On the ground, the RAF is providing additional mobile ground radar systems (Type 101 radar), while the Army is deploying air observers and high velocity and Rapier missile systems, which also provide radar detection capability, to provide additional layers of radar coverage. A final decision on the deployment of these capabilities has yet to be taken by the Government.
The Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said:
Whilst there is no specific threat to the Games, we have to be ready to assist in delivering a safe and secure Olympics for all to enjoy.
The fact that our state-of-the-art Typhoons will be stationed at RAF Northolt underlines the commitment of the Ministry of Defence and our Armed Forces to keeping the public safe at a time when the world will be watching us.
Air Vice-Marshal Stuart Atha, Air Component Commander for Olympics Air Security, said:
As we undertake this essential training, there will be a visible and audible presence of RAF Typhoon and military helicopters operating above Greater London and the Home Counties. There will also be flights occurring throughout the exercise period to allow pilots and other forces to become familiar with operating in the London and Home Counties airspace.
We have sought to limit the amount of flying to the minimum required to ensure that our Forces are ready for their important role delivering air security for the Olympics, balancing this against the need for us to reduce disturbance to a minimum. But we hope that people will understand the need for this very important training, and we thank them for their continued strong support.