Argentina Bolsters Radar System ahead of G20 Summit
By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo June 21, 2018Argentina is building up its radar system to guarantee adequate airspace surveillance during the G20 leaders’ summit slated for November 30 and December 1, 2018, in Buenos Aires. The country will overhaul its long-range MTPS-43 and TPS-43 radars and manufacture RAM-2, a mid-range radar.
The initiative is part of a broad process to develop and install sensors under contracts between the Argentine Air Force (FAA, in Spanish) and the Institute for Applied Research (INVAP, in Spanish), a high-tech firm from Argentina. Until now, the priority for radar installation was the northern border, where drug and human trafficking rings operate. But, with the upcoming G20 summit, which will bring together the leaders of the world’s most influential countries in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s Ministry of Defense decided to ramp up surveillance around the capital as well.
“We already have a radar up and running in the city of Merlo [about 40 kilometers from Buenos Aires], but its range is limited. For the G20, we decided it was necessary to monitor and control the airspace of the entire province of Buenos Aires,” said Colonel Carlos Marcelo Villa, director of Radar Sensors at FAA's General Directorate of Materiel. “With three additional mobile radars, we will have enough capacity to ensure we can fully defend our airspace,” he told Diálogo.
Juan Belikow, a professor of International Relations at the University of Buenos Aires, told Diálogo that the radars will be of utmost importance for the event’s security. “Certain heads of state would not come to the country unless they were sure this requirement would be met. It’s also a mandatory precondition for any G20 summit location,” Belikow said. “This equipment will also be essential for the fight against narcotrafficking and the smuggling of other illegal goods in the region.”
The three radars
Developing the Argentine radars entails two processes: upgrading and modernizing. “Upgrading is when you have a component and you improve that same component,” Col. Villa explained. “Modernizing is when you swap out a component for something that serves a more modern function.” The Argentine Ministry of Defense and FAA chose to equip themselves with the following radars for the G20:
• A 1978 MTPS-43 mobile radar that is 3D (azimuth, distance, and height) and long-range (200 nautical miles or 360 km). This device was already modernized and in operation in the province of Chaco in northern Argentina. INVAP will upgrade it.
• A 3D, long-range TPS-43 mobile radar, also made in 1978. This radar was not in operation. “We will modernize this radar and make it into an MTPS-43, so the two radars will be identical,” Col. Villa said.
• A 3D, mid-range RAM-2 radar (range of 170 nautical miles or 306 km). This is a new radar currently being developed.
“As a radar specialist, I can tell you that the capabilities of these sensors are similar to international ones. Argentina achieved the ability to develop these systems autonomously,” Col. Villa said. “In addition, 70 percent of the components are manufactured in Argentina.”
Situated in strategic places, the three devices will provide comprehensive coverage of the province of Buenos Aires. “It will not be possible to enter the province’s airspace without being detected by these radars,” Col. Villa added. “After the G20, the MTPS-43 radar will go back to Chaco, and the other two will most likely be used to ensure the security of northern Argentina’s airspace as well.”
The modernization, upgrade, and manufacture of these radars will take between seven to 10 months from when the contracts are signed. “The goal is to have one radar in August, the other in September, and the third in October,” Col. Villa said. “We are moving very swiftly with INVAP, trying to minimize risks and meet those targets.”
FAA highlighted the interagency cooperation that will take place during the G20 summit. “Airspace surveillance and control are our most important responsibilities. We share that information with the security forces so they can perform the tasks within their mandate,” Col. Villa said.
The officer emphasized that there will be an air defense coordination center working side by side with a similar center for ground defense. Both will be in constant contact with security forces.
The new radars will form part of the National Airspace Control and Surveillance System (SINVICA, in Spanish), which seeks to achieve aerial and maritime coverage of all of Argentina’s territory. “SINVICA is an ambitious program with a large number of radars throughout the country,” said Col. Villa.