Will Admiral Lord West's new weapon secure sailing Olympians?

Admiral Lord West of Spithead – the Home Office’s counter terrorism minister – is worried that ‘stupid’ motor-boaters who have been drinking could be mistaken for water-borne suicide bombers.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that such people did not deserve to die which was the main reason behind a bazooka-delivered net which immobilises a speeding boat’s propellor and which can be fired at boats which refuse to stop.

‘Let’s say now we’re off Weymouth in 2012 and we’re doing the Olympic Games, and we suddenly find a boat.
‘What we want to be able to do is stop it without actually having to kill the people in the boat, or risk killing the people in the boat.’

At the Defence Diving School near Portsmouth, a team of Home Office scientists and industry experts are developing a device that aims to achieve what some consider to be the near impossible.

Their mission? Stopping a speed boat – possibly laden with explosives – from reaching its target, without the use of lethal force.

The device, known as the Air Launch Running Gear Entanglement System, looks like a futuristic bazooka out of the imagination of a Hollywood prop designer. The US Coastguard has expressed a keen interest.

Compressed air is used on the shoulder-held device to propel a line from a pursuing boat which drags with it a high-tech, high tensile net to disable the target craft’s propulsion system.

Lord West says the “boat-stopping system” is only a small part of what science and technology can do to help counter the terrorist threat.