LONDON — Britain is known for its unarmed bobbies on the beat. But tourists visiting London will have to get used to the city's landmarks being patrolled by more and more officers wielding firearms.
The Metropolitan Police announced the increase — dubbed Operation Hercules — during a show-and-tell event in central London on Wednesday.
As well as the armed cops who will be guarding the London's potential terror targets, also out in force were the Met's elite counterterrorism unit, which would be first on the scene in the event of an attack.
The announcement comes on the back of plans unveiled in January to increase the number of armed officers in the capital by 600 by the end of the year, bringing the total to around 2,800.
"Certainly you’ll see more firearms officers walking about, with guns available," Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told NBC News at the operation's launch on Wednesday. "Over the last 18 months the threat level has been severe. And what severe means is that an attack is highly likely but [we have received] no specific intelligence about a particular attack."
The bolstered force comes after a string of deadly attacks across Europe. Earlier this week, Hogan-Howe said it was a case of "when, not if" a terror attack was carried out in the capital.
Reporters were shown the types of armed police that Londoners and tourists can expect to see around the capital, as well as members of the Met's Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officers unit. These elite officers would be the first to rush to the scene in the event of an attack.