British Transport Police - Specialist Firearms Team
British Transport Police (BTP) began armed patrols of select train stations in February 2012. This unusual armed presence was in response to a 'severe' level of terrorist threat. Incidents such as the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which included gunmen attacking a busy train terminus, have highlighted the need for in situ armed units, such as were already in place at several British airports. Such units can respond immediately to an attack, rather having to travel to the scene, as firearms units from other forces would have to do. Armed patrols were initially limited to the London railway network although they can be deployed nationally. Armed patrols are not a permanent fixture at any given station.
The specialist firearms team is made up of a select core of Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO) with the BTP Counter Terrorism Support Unit (CTSU) who perform routine armed patrol of stations, usually operating in pairs.
BTP AFOs may operate in a larger team than the normal 2-person patrol. AFOs may be called in to provide armed support to spontaneous and pre-planned operations. In June 2015 a counter terrorism exercise was held in London which featured an underground station being taken over by terrorists. A number of BTP AFOs were photographed wearing full tactical gear, including ballistic helmets, headsets, balaclavas etc.
- Photo: BTP AFOs in full tactical gear
Armed Response Vehicles
The BTP fields a number of Armed Response Vehicle (ARV) Officers who patrol outside major rail hubs. Vehicles employed in the ARV role include Volvo V70 D5 estates and Mercedes Vito vans. The ARVs are fitted with radios and carry tactical gear (see weapons and equipment below).
- photo: BTP Volvo Armed Response Vehicle patrolling Trafalgar Square, June 2015
- video: BTP Armed Response Vehicle responding on Euston Road, April 2015
Weapons & Equipment
The BTP Firearms Unit carry the Lewis Machine & Tools (LMT) CQB carbine, a short-barreled semi-automatic rifle chambered for the 5.56mm x 45mm NATO cartridge and based on the AR-15 design. Photos show Leupold Mark 4 Close Quarter/Tactical Rifle Scopes mounted on the BTP's carbines. Other common accessories include a fold-down fore grip and a tactical light. The weapons have been spotted with and without suppressor attachments.
The armed BTP officers also carry a Glock 17 9mm pistol as a secondary weapon, as well as a taser. CS or PAVA (pepper) incapacitant spray may also be carried.
BTP AFOs wear body armour which provides protection against knife and spike attack, blunt trauma and ballistic injuries. Instead of ballistic helmets, the BTP AFOs on patrol wear the standard peaked cap (men) or bowler hat (women). clothing includes 5.11 cargo pants, black wicking tops, Keela jackets and Lowa boots.  Other gear includes TETRA (airwave) personal radios and handcuffs.
Equipment carried Inside BTP ARVs includes medic packs, ballistic shields of various lengths, ceramic plates (body armour) and ballistic helmets.
- 1. Safe Travels - Top Cover Issue 3 Page 8
(Top Cover magazine)