The Royal Navy’s largest ship, HMS Ocean, sailed up the River Thames today to take part in a major military and civilian exercise to ensure the London 2012 Olympic Games are as safe and secure as possible.
Royal Marines snipers from 539 Assault Squadron and 43 Commando will be on board the Navy Lynx helicopters, ready to shoot out the engines of suspicious vessels on the water while RAF Regiment snipers will do the same from the Army Lynx for light aircraft.
P2000 patrol vessels sailing on the river are set to ensure safety and security and will investigate any unknown craft or people on the water.
Air security will be tested throughout the weekend during the exercise while river operations are set to take place from Tuesday.
Captain Andrew Bretton, Commanding Officer of HMS Ocean said:
“As a former Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, a ship with such great links to London, I am particularly pleased to be bringing HMS Ocean to Greenwich to be part of the Olympics, a truly once-in-a-generation event.
“HMS Ocean is the largest ship in the Royal Navy and is ideally suited to the task of supporting the police in providing security for the world’s largest and most famous sporting event.
“Everyone on board in proud to be involved in the Olympic Games and thrilled to bring our ship into the centre of London for all to see at such an important and exciting time for the city.”
The nine-day Exercise Olympic Guardian also saw Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark stage her own security rehearsals ahead of the Olympic sailing competition off Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour.
HMS Bulwark will act as the command platform during the Olympics for the Dorset Police Authority as well as representatives from the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), RNLI and regional civil authorities.
Royal Navy bomb disposal experts will be on board and are set to ensure the area is safe for sailing while Merlin helicopters from 814 Naval Air Squadron and embarked royal Marines will ensure safety from the skies.
As part of their exercise, the team on board HMS Bulwark practised their communications systems and ran through the workings of the airborne and surface assets.
HMS Bulwark’s Commanding Officer Captain Alex Burton is responsible for the military presence in Dorset during the Games. He said:
“We’re extremely honoured as a nation to be hosting these Olympic events. HMS Bulwark’s task is to support the policing operation in a discreet manner with the provision of capabilities and resources not available to British policing.
“Our military planning teams have established a strong and effective working relationship with Dorset Police over the last year. It is always rewarding to train and exercise together to fully understand the environments we will be working in this summer.
“Together we will deliver a safe and secure Games in the region.”
The Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, also visited the ship today to meet the personnel involved and witness first hand the Olympics security preparations.
“HMS Ocean’s arrival in London on the River Thames today completes the build up of military assets and personnel taking part in Exercise Olympic Guardian over the coming days which will test the role of the Armed Forces in keeping the Games safe and secure.
“The public will expect that we are ready and prepared in the unlikely event that any threat emerges. That is why Typhoon fast jets are stationed at RAF Northolt, ground based air defences are being tested at sites across London and helicopters and Royal Marines will be operating from HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s largest ship, berthed at Greenwich.
“Security for the Games will be Police led, but I am proud to see the military taking a key role in the security arrangements around the world’s greatest sporting event which will be watched by billions worldwide.”
Naval Today Staff, May 07, 2012; Image: Royal Navy