The 2012 London Olympics are only 250 days away and the organisers are taking pre-emptive steps to deter any terrorist attacks. As part of the security arrangements, "heli-snipers", or snipers onboard military helicopters, will hover above sporting venues during the summer games.
A Daily Mail report suggests that Royal Air Force (RAF) snipers are understood to have been training at the restricted Lydd Military Live-Firing range near the Kent coast to sharpen their skills.
One source told the newspaper that the training had been designed specifically to prepare for Olympic Games deployment to protect stadiums in East London and other venues. The specialist shooters, flying in Merlin or Lynx helicopters, will be capable of killing a target at a range of more than a mile, using a Barrett "Light Fifty" rifle. At night, these flying snipers can kill an enemy 1,000 yards away, using night sights and infra-red lasers for target-marking.
The Barrett "Light Fifty" rifles have the power to destroy engine blocks and fire through concrete from long ranges, making it difficult for a terrorist to take cover. If assigned, these snipers, who have already served in Iraq, could go on operational duty in the UK for the first time.
Last week, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond revealed in the House of Commons that ground-to-air missiles might be used during the Olympics if needed. It was recently reported that the U.S. was preparing to send 1,000 armed personnel, including 500 agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to protect its contingent.
Hammond's statement means that the hosts are taking all necessary security steps prevent any terror attack.
"The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been fully involved in Olympic security planning work and it is anticipated that the Armed Forces, at the request of the civilian authorities, will provide some specialist support including the use of assets where appropriate. However, this will be a police-led operation and any military involvement will be in a supporting role," said a MoD spokesperson.
"It is too early to talk about the numbers of personnel who may be involved or further details around precisely what support the MoD might provide - but ongoing planning to meet a range of contingencies is sensible. This work is not in response to any specific threat but, as the Defence Secretary said in Parliament, all necessary measures to ensure the security and safety of the London Olympic Games will be taken," the spokesperson continued.