London 2012: Navy watches over capital’s skies

Although the eyes of the world are on the Olympic Stadium in the run up to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, hundreds of people on an aircaft carrier are working to make sure it all goes without incident.

The Royal Navy’s biggest ship, HMS Ocean, is moored at Greenwich as a base for helicopters that can be scrambled at a moment’s notice should a suspicious aircraft be spotted in the skies over the capital.

The Lynx helicopters, flown by the Navy and the Army, are part of a security umbrella designed to provide air security over the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in conjunction with the RAF’s Typhoon jets and surface-to-air-missiles.

The pilots and aircrew are the visible face of a crew of almost 500 who were going about their day-to-day activities with an air of calm competence. All of them, however, appreciate the historic nature of their deployment and the rare opportunity they have of being deployed in London.

HMS Ocean is also home to the 500 members of the armed forces who are providing Olympic venue security.

Simon Gough, an Army Lynx helicopter pilot with 661 Squadron, said: “We are all hugely proud to be involved. It’s completely different for us because we don’t operate from ships and it’s very rare for us to be in the centre of our own capital city.

“It is a historic event and everyone is immensely proud at being a part of it. A lot of the guys have been to the rehearsal of the opening ceremony and all have seen the Olympic Torch.”