G7 Summit ring of steel in Cornwall with Navy warships, commandos and The Beast
Hundreds of British troops, bomb experts, rocket-detecting radar and 6,500 police officers are protecting the G7 Summit in Cornwall in one of the biggest UK security operations ever
Navy warships, bomb experts, drones, the Secret Service and military radar mistaken for a missile launcher are among the security measures protecting world leaders at the G7 Summit.
A ‘ring of steel’ has been set up around Carbis Bay in Cornwall, which is hosting the first G7 (Group of Seven) talks since the coronavirus pandemic.
Navy warships have been patrolling the waters at the tiny seaside resort, near St Ives, and UK and US military helicopters have been buzzing overhead in advance of the three-day summit, which gets underway on Friday.
US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are among the world leaders being hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Ten foot high steel fences and security checkpoints have been set up around the site, local airspace has been shut, and local residents have been warned to expect disruption including road closures and travel delays.
Security forces have spent months preparing for all kinds of potential threats and scenarios.
About 40 groups had said they were planning to hold protests, though the nearest of four designated sites for demonstrations were about 20 miles away.
This will be one of the biggest and most expensive security operations ever in Britain.
Carbis Bay’s 3,500 residents will be hugely outnumbered by the thousands of military, police and security personnel tasked with keeping the leaders and their entourages safe.
Hundreds of British military personnel from all three services, including bomb disposal experts and sniffer dogs, are involved in the operation, along with members of the US military.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Tyne, which has been used to shadow Russian warships, has been patrolling Cornwall’s north coast this week.
The HMS Northumberland will be positioned off the coast, where it will use its radar system to look for any potential threats from the sea and air.
Plans were under discussion to deploy HMS Prince of Wales, a Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier undergoing trials, in a further show of strength, military sources told the Times.
Two offshore patrol vessels, six Archer class P2000 patrol vessels and rigid inflatable boats have also been brought in to help with surveillance, the report added.
A number of Chinook military helicopters are also being used for transport.
US military helicopters – V-22 Ospreys and Sea Kings – have been seen flying over the area this week, as well as Marine One, the president’s helicopter, ahead of Mr Biden’s arrival from Washington.
The airspace above Cornwall is largely shut.
‘Is that a missile launcher?’
An RAF Giraffe agile multibeam radar system has been set up near the sea to identify and track aircraft and threats such as rockets or mortar rounds.
It also provides coastal surveillance.
6,500 police officers
It has been estimated that more than 6,500 police officers will be involved in providing security and patrols at and around the site of the meeting.
Members from every force in the country – about 5,000 in total – have travelled to Carbis Bay to help Devon and Cornwall Police.
Many are armed with Heckler & Koch carbines that can fire 750 rounds a minute, the Times reported.
Police have flooded the village, with some officers dressed all in black like paramilitaries, others in fluorescent coats and search teams in red jackets.
A church car park was packed with marked and unmarked police vehicles, a muster point for officers tasked with providing security and deterring protesters.
Police will be using surveillance drones, dozens of sniffer dogs, boats, personal watercraft and other specialist teams and equipment.
Officers were seen using metal detectors during a search of the beach.
Ten foot high steel fences and security checkpoints have been set up around the site.
Are leaders bringing their own security?
Yes, world leaders will be bringing their own bodyguards and security experts to carry out sweep and protect them while they are in the UK for the summit and other engagements.
Mr Biden and first lady Jill Biden, for example, will meet the Queen at Windsor Castle after leaving Cornwall.
About 400 members of the US Secret Service will be on hand in Cornwall.
Armoured cars will be used to transport the leaders.
Mr Biden will ride in an armoured Cadillac limousine called the Beast, which has been flown in from the US, in a convoy of cars occupied by Secret Service agents and heavily-armed commandos.
The Beast boasts 8in thick doors and a sealed interior with independent oxygen support designed to withstand a nuclear, biological or chemical attack.
The car always carries at least two pints of the president’s blood in case an emergency transfusion is necessary.
How much is this going to cost?
It has been estimated that the security operation will exceed £70 million, in line with the previous two G7 Summits held in the UK, the Guardian reported.
Devon and Cornwall Police have called it the “largest security operation in its history”.
The final cost is likely to be revealed months from now.
The bill for the last equivalent meeting, the G8 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, in 2013 was put at £75 million.
Will there be protests?
About 40 groups have said they are planning to hold protests during the summit.
Protesters will not be able to get close to the hotel, however.
Steel crash barriers to prevent demonstrators have been erected along Carbis Bay’s main road.
Four approved sites have been set up for protesters, with the closest ones about 20 miles away.
They are Plymouth Hoe, Flowerpot playing field in Exeter, Church Street car park in Falmouth and Lemon Quay in Truro.
How is normal life being disrupted?
Locals are facing severe disruption including road closures and travel delays.
Yellow event signs are dotted around the county’s main roads telling drivers to avoid the area and warning of disruption from June 5 to 13.
A traffic announcement on local radio station Pirate FM warned motorists on Wednesday: “Today is the day the bedlam commences.”
Its reporter highlighted an “enormous diversion” around tourist hotspot Newquay, where leaders’ planes will land on Friday.
Even the local railway – the St Ives Branch Line – has been closed.
Instead of the two-carriage Great Western Railway train trundling along the tracks on Wednesday, police were inspecting the rails for anything suspicious.
The lane leading from the village down to the hotel and beach has obviously been resurfaced very recently for the occasion, with freshly-painted yellow lines banning parking.
The leaders’ convoys and motorcades will drive past the church of St Anta and All Saints where the congregation has adorned the facade with bunting of “hands” displaying messages setting out local kids’ hopes for the summit.
One reads: “Waving for our planet”, another says: “Drop the debt”, and another urges: “Climate justice now.”
Billboards erected in the church grounds urge leaders to “Cherish creation, cut carbon, speak up” and another, from the Wave of Hope campaign highlighted by the Mirror this month, says: “We need a recovery that provides vaccines and healthcare for all, fights poverty and injustice, and helps end the climate and nature crises.”
Where is everyone staying?
Hotels and other accommodation in the region have been booked up for the summit.
World leaders will be holding discussions at the Carbis Bay Hotel and staying at the Tregenna Castle Hotel.
Mr Biden’s team will stay in 50 luxury RVs around the hotel grounds.
The MS Silja Europa luxury cruise ship is being used to accommodate more than 1,000 police officers in Falmouth.
Hundreds of others are staying in RVs at an RAF base near Newquay.