DB - Digital Battlespace

Germany looks into radar picture improvements

1st November 2019 - 12:00 GMT | by Thomas Withington in Toulouse

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The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) may embark upon a major procurement of new ground-based air surveillance radars over the coming five years which could see Germany replacing its four Hughes/Raytheon HR-3000 HADR S-band ground-based air surveillance radars (pictured) by 2023

The four radar operate between 2.3 gigahertz/GHz to 2.5GHz/2.7GHz to 3.7GHz. These radars were ordered by the West German government in 1980, and delivered between 1985 and 1986 at a cost of circa $62.7 million in 2019 values. 

With an instrumented range of 310nm (574km), and altitude of up to 98,000ft (29,870m), these radars formed a key part of Germany’s contribution to the NADGE (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Air Defence Ground Environment) Integrated Air Defence System (IADS), with two of the systems dedicated to providing their imagery to support the Recognised Air Picture (RAP) generated by the NADGE. 

This imagery continues to be fed into the NADGE which is being replaced by NATO’s Air Command and Control System (ACCS). This is a scalable, federated ensemble of hardware and software being developed by Thales which will become the standard IADS for the majority of NATO’s European membership over the coming decade.

The radars also feed imagery into the RAP generated for the Luftwaffe’s German Integrated Air Defence System (GIADS), the domestic IADS. The four HR-3000 radar stations are located at Marienbaum, close to the western German-Dutch border, Brockzetel in northern Germany, Messstetten in the southwest and Erbeskopf close to the country’s border with Luxembourg.

Any potential acquisition could be worth up to $111 million, Defence Insight’s analysis notes, with circa $27.7 million expected to be spent annually on the acquisition of four radars between 2023 and 2026. 

Any future acquisition would represent an important shot-in-the-arm for German ground-based air surveillance, and would augment a modernisation of the Luftwaffe air surveillance capabilities which commenced in 2010 with the order of six Thales GM-406F S-band ground-based air surveillance radars delivered between 2013 and 2015. 

Compared to the HR-3000s these radars have an improved performance with an instrumented range of 253.8nm (470km) and a maximum altitude of 100,100ft (30,500m). 

The GM-406Fs are positioned on a roughly north-south axis stretching from Brekendorf in the far north of Germany close to the country’s border with Denmark to Freising in the southeast. The rest of the GIADS’ radar coverage is provided by Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117 L-band (1.215GHz to 1.4GHz) ground-based air surveillance radars. 

These are mainly positioned on the northern and eastern side of the country covering the air approaches from the Baltic, and from Poland and the Czech Republic. 

One such radar forms a landmark at Berlin’s historic, but now disused, Tempelhof airfield where it is housed in a towering radome close to the site’s iconic terminal buildings. A total of nine AN/TPS-77s were acquired from the United States between 1991 and 1993 following an initial order in 1988. These radars are not expected to be replaced until at least circa 2030.

All these radars feed imagery into three control and reporting centres located at Schönenwalde in eastern Germany, Emdtebrück in the west of the country and at Uedem, which is collocated with the Luftwaffe Air Operations Centre, and the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre responsible for protecting the alliance’s airspace north of the Alps. 

Over the longer term it is possible that the GIADS, which become fully operational in its most recent incarnation, GIADS-III, in 2011, could be replaced by the ACCS.

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