Readiness of Paris Olympics Anti-Drone System Questioned – 2024-04-13 14:03:23

Ahead of the Paris Olympics, concerns have been raised that the anti-drone shields prepared for the event may not be enough.(AFP)

THREE and a half months before the start of the Paris Olympics, concerns are growing that the anti-drone shield put up for the event is not enough to protect the French capital from potential attacks.

Last year, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin highlighted drones as “without a doubt the main threat that must be addressed” in the Olympics.

However, the parliamentary report is now considered too sensitive to be made public, while an exercise to test the system is proving erratic.

“It’s annoying that this is of public concern, but unfortunately, contrary to the official line, things are not really going the way we want,” a high-level security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Specter – The threat of “terror” attacks has haunted every Olympic host since the 1972 Munich Games, when the Palestinian organization Black September murdered 11 members of the Israeli team.

The threat level increased significantly with the 9/11 attacks on New York, with preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympics dogged by constant speculation about a ‘dirty’ bomb in the metro and an ever-increasing security bill.

Also read: 1 Killed in Drone Attack on Russian Oil Refinery

This year’s attack scenario, with a group of drones attacking the Seine during the opening ceremony on July 26 with 300,000 spectators on the banks, was a nightmare for the authorities.

Although France’s national security alert level was raised to its maximum level following the attack on a concert venue in Moscow on March 22, which was cited by the Islamic State, President Emmanuel Macron said holding the opening ceremony on the Seine remained a “desirable scenario”.

With an estimated three million drones in France – the vast majority in private ownership – the armed forces and government are scrambling to prevent the flight of any potentially hostile aircraft.

Also read: Russia destroys Ukraine’s military industry

Military response responsibility for the Paris Olympics was entrusted to Thales and CS Group in April 2022.

But since then, one problem followed another.

The scheduled delivery of all six systems, known as Parade and scheduled for June 2023, has been delayed by several months.

Also read: Russia Rains Kharkiv with Missiles

This raised concerns, and convinced a Senate committee to launch a fact-finding mission in late 2023.

The committee’s chairman, Cedric Perrin of the centre-right Les Republicains party, told defense journalists in December that the fight against drones was “not good enough”.

Large-scale trials organized by the French air force in mid-March to test the first Parade system in Villacoublay, near Paris, clearly did not convince all participants.

Senators announced on March 20 their report would not be made public.

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According to several sources, Perrin expressed his frustration with the military.

“This is a national security issue” and publishing the report “could be dangerous,” explained a source close to the armed forces.

When Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu completed a fact-finding mission hearing on April 2, it was behind closed doors.

“We have asked the manufacturer, Thales in this case, to improve by responding appropriately to all requests made by the armed forces and the French Defense Arms Procurement Agency to be ready,” Lecornu previously told the press.

Contacted by AFP, Thales did not provide comment.

“Yes, it doesn’t work perfectly. And yes, the system can be improved. The problem is that in three months, there is very little room for maneuver,” said another security source who wished to remain anonymous.

With just three months to go before the Olympic opening ceremony, “time to train staff, making significant improvements to the system, seems unlikely,” said the same source.

Alain Bauer, a criminology professor, is pragmatic about the possibility of a security breach

“No system is as effective as hoped. This is demonstrated almost every day by what is happening in Ukraine,” he said.

“While the system is without a doubt among the best in the world, some drones still make it through.”

Plan B – The question remains whether or not the French armed forces continue with the Parade system.

“We’ll see,” said a source close to the matter.

Recently, the air force acquired several Bassalt anti-drone systems, which are designed to detect and intercept any drone within a 10-kilometer (radius.

The armed forces will have “enough to equip all Olympic venues,” including the opening ceremony, with Bassalt, a kind of anti-drone backup plan B, the security source added.

“It’s like having a car that is broken down, or not in good condition, and in the garage you have a working car. What would you take on holiday? I know,” said a senior civic official. (AFP/Z-3)

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