Near miss as Britain's biggest warship squeezes through Thames Barrier to attend the Olympic Guard exercise

Along with the Typhoon on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at RAF Northolt, west London, the Olympic Guard exercise, whose goal is to test the security plan aimed to prevent a 9/11 type of attack during this summer’s Olympics, saw also the participation of the HMS Ocean  amphibious assault ship.

In fact, while several other assets will be enforcing the No-Fly Zone, and a few SAM (Surface to Air Missile) batteries will track suspect planes from the roof of some residential buildings, Britain’s biggest warship, will be docked at Greenwich as a precaution against any potential terrorist attacks.

Therefore, on May 4, the helicopter carrier made its way up the River Thames with eight Lynx choppers belonging to both the Royal Navy and Army on board.

However, the journey up the river of the 21,500-tonne ship was made particularly difficult by the 61-mt gaps in the moveable flood barriers lying downstream on the Thames. In fact, as the 35-mt wide ship approached the barrier, the wind pushed it towards one of the 20-mt tall steel gates.

With the help of three tugboats, the helicopter carrier was able to safely sail through the narrow gap but the near miss fueled criticism for the “over the top” exercise put in place by the UK’s MoD for the Olympics Games.

Especially since no specific threats have been made to the Games.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. “No specific threat.”

    Well, I don’t think anyone “specifically threatened” the World Trade Center months before 9/11, either. “Over the top?” I don’t think so. If I wanted to catch the world’s attention, could there be a more inviting target than the Olympics?

    • I agree with you that nobody issued a specific warning before 9/11 but it must be said that since the WTC attack many times US and various other embassies issued warnings for their citizens at home or abroad discouraging travels in certain parts of the world.
      In the US there were signs of imminent terrorist attacks on the 10th 9/11 anniversary and the news was made public.

      Dealing with the “over the top” statement it was referred to the exercise, not to the real operation. I don’t think the absense of the HMS Ocean would have changed the training return of the Olympic Guard but for the Cdr of the ship who practiced sailing past the narrow gap between the Thames flood barriers.
      Maybe the RN had to attend in one way or another one the marketing campaign ;-)

  2. I agree with Ron, terrorism never provides a warning, I think there should be more millitary “show” but sneaky bits & pieces as the biggest weapon in any locker is “your opponents imagination..”

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