Olympics airspace restrictions take effect
13 July 2012
Restrictions on flights over London, designed to protect this summer's Olympic Games, are to take effect from 14 July, it has been announced.
The restrictions, which include restricted flying in a 30-mile wide zone in southeast England, will last for a month during the Olympic Games, while a second set of lesser restrictions will enter into force for the Paralympic games from 16 August until 12 September.
The airspace above London will be secured by Royal Air Force fast jets and helicopters, while army Rapier and Starstreak missile systems will also be based at six sites around the capital.
HMS Ocean will also be based on the Thames throughout the games.
Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond MP, said: "I am pleased to be able to confirm that the equipment necessary to operate our comprehensive, layered air security plan is now in place. I believe this will provide reassurance to residents of, and visitors to, London and a powerful deterrent.
"There are now 17,000 military personnel involved in the Olympic security effort, every one of whom will play a part in ensuring the games go smoothly and are the national sporting celebration they should be. They deserve everyone's gratitude."
The Royal Air Force has insisted lethal force is a last resort in securing the games, and suspicious aircraft will be ordered to rock their wings and follow military escorts away from London in the first instance.
If this fails, the RAF could fire flares in order to move an aircraft, but if an aircraft is still then considered a security threat it may be shot down.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has conducted the largest pilot education programme ever, producing a special website for amateur pilots detailing the extent of the new restrictions.
Pilots have a legal requirement to understand the changes before each flight and the CAA has written to all private pilots, distributed over 60,000 leaflets and conducted briefings to raise awareness.
RAF Group Captain Rich Jacob told Sky News: "Pilots are going to be required to pass details of their flights in advance, have that flight approved, and then once they're airborne they need to remain in contact with air traffic control throughout their flight in the restricted airspace.
"Failure to comply could result in RAF Typhoon jets or military helicopters being sent up to intercept them and guide them back on course. Unidentified aircraft which do not respond could be shot down as a last resort."
The UK's current terror threat level is described as "substantial", the third highest of five terror threat levels, but the Home Office will consider the threat to the Olympic Games to be "severe" – the second highest level. The government has insisted there are no specific terror threats to the event.