Thursday, November 5, 2009

Iraqi air force acquires advanced radar system

Iraqi air force officials advanced their air defense monitoring capabilities after a ceremony marked the transfer of a digital air surveillance radar from American control to Iraqi control Oct. 26 here.

"Today, another historical day added to our brothers and the Iraqi air force," said Iraqi air force Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ghani, the Iraqi communications director. "Through that system, we will identify more ... aircraft entering our sovereignty."

Maj. Gen. Robert C. Kane, the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force director, gave a speech providing a timeline of how the Iraqi air force is evolving in military capability leading up to the transfer of the new Kirkuk Air Base airfield system.

"We started this process by installing more than $53 million of air traffic control and navigation capabilities for the Iraqi air force more than three years ago. Beginning in August of 2006, our governments, air forces and civilian contractors cooperated to not only fund the purchase of this highly technical equipment, but to train the Iraqi air force personnel how to use it and maintain it," General Kane said. "I'm very proud to say that the Iraqi air force now possesses these capabilities. You now have full operational control of this new state-of-the-art, digital airport surveillance system."

Having a more advanced system gives the Iraqi air force the ability to protect its airspace on a grander scale.

"They're able to now see on this radar northern Iraq, southern Turkey, Syria, Iran, the entire northern quadrant of the country and they'll know if anybody enters their airspace," said Capt. Jeremy Kruger, the 521st Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron onsite program manager deployed from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.

The digital air surveillance radar system, which includes the radar and the radar control facility, enables Iraqi air traffic controllers the capability to monitor aircraft from up to 120 nautical miles away. The overall system also comprises other modernizations made to the airfield.

"Those two specific pieces of equipment are part of a larger package," said Lt. Col. Brian Carr, the 506th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander deployed from Luke AFB, Ariz. "It also includes comprehensive new lighting, signs and weather observation for the entire aerodrome which makes Kirkuk a modern airfield."

The new radar system is also the standard for international civil aviation and surveillance requirements. Colonel Carr said the equipment gives Kirkuk's airfield the potential for future commercial airline use.

"It preps them to have that capability," he said. "There's a brand new navigational aid node VOR (VHF Omni-directional Range), which brings them up to a modern operating capability. Probably most important among those upgrades is the instrument landing system, which allows aircrew to land in poor weather."

Eventually, the radar signal will be remotely accessible from Baghdad International Airport for even greater airspace control. Colonel Carr described the significance of what this and the entire airfield upgrade means to Iraq.

"It sets the groundwork for a unified air picture by remoting the signal to BIAP. So from one place, air traffic control can see all the airspace," he said. "It's a very robust and capable air picture compared to what has historically been used; so it will allow both high fidelity on guarding their borders and high fidelity for controlling traffic. It facilitates our mission short term and makes this a viable, sustainable, modern airport for the Iraqis once we depart."


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