Sniper-carrying RAF helicopters arrive in Ilford for Olympics stay

The two military helicopters which will carry snipers to defend the airspace around east London’s Olympic Park arrived in Ilford yesterday.

The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Puma helicopters will call the Ilford Territorial Army Centre in Gordon Road home during the Olympic and Paralympic Games leaving no later than September 16.

The aircraft from 33 Squadron, based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, form part of the military operation policing the airspace around the Games in Stratford against terrorist threats.

The helicopters will carry RAF Regiment snipers “to intercept aircraft as one of a number of elements in the air security plan”, according to the Ministry of Defence.

The helicopters already took part in test flights from the base in May and residents were invited to meet their crews.

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Wing Cdr Shane Anderson, the officer commanding 33 Squadron, said: “We are proud to be at Ilford, playing our part in ensuring the security of the Games.”

The crews have taken part in training missions alongside RAF Typhoon jets.

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They will be used alongside the jets, Royal Navy Sea King helicopters and RAF surveillance aircraft and ground-based air radar systems as well as Army air defence missiles.

A 30 mile wide prohibited air zone around the Olympic Park, which does not affect commercial aircraft, comes into effect from 0.01am tomorrow.

Changeovers when the helicopters return to base will take place at 9am and 5pm and the MoD has promised to “minimise disruption”.

After it was revealed on Thursday that extra military personnel will be needed during the Games to make up a potential shortfall in recruitment by security company G4S, an MoD spokesman today said this will not affect numbers based in Hainault.

The temporary Snoozebox hotel in Hainault Forest Country Park, Romford Road, is set to house 3,000 MoD personnel and 1,000 G4S staff during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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