A challenging engineering installation on top of the Rock of Gibraltar has passed a significant customer acceptance milestone. The project will ensure radar surveillance for RAF Gibraltar and Gibraltar International Airport for many years to come. Teams from Thales and Aquila completed the installation, integration, and commissioning of the Thales StarNG Primary Surveillance Radar and RSM970S Secondary Surveillance Radar. Programme Marshall, part of the UK MOD’s upgrade of Air Traffic Management systems, has completed its impressive “Gate 4” milestone, which marks the end of the radar testing phase and acceptance of its operational performance by the Ministry of Defence. More than 100 specialists have been involved in delivering these radars that have changed Gibraltar’s skyline. The dome, perched at an impressive 413 metres above sea level.
One of the most striking visual changes to the profile of the iconic rock has been the installation of a giant white spherical dome to protect the radar from the surprisingly extreme weather the summit often endures. Volumes of data were collected for computational analysis to prove the radar could operate as expected. These reports were then provided to MOD for their assessment and approval. But the all-important commissioning phase involved a specialist flight-checking aircraft from Thales Flight Inspection Services, which flew back and forth and around the radar to demonstrate its critical operational performance.
Eddie Trott, Regional Programme Manager, Thales in the UK said “We’re extremely pleased with the delivery and performance of the new Primary and Secondary radars that will serve Gibraltar for decades to come”. The installation challenges at the top of ‘The Rock’ have been daunting, yet inspiring and hugely rewarding. Location-wise, it’s certainly one of Programme Marshall’s most difficult installations, but a pleasure to be part of and satisfying to see it complete. We received exceptional support from RAF Gibraltar and the Government of Gibraltar. A huge thankyou to the hundreds of people involved in the project and to the many Gibraltarians who’ve helped make it happen.”
As the project developed, underslung airlifts of equipment to the top of the rock by Chinook helicopter became a familiar sight to residents. With the Gate 4 milestone reached, the radar will now be integrated with the new soon-to-be-installed Thales TopSky Air Traffic Display systems in the control tower next to the airport. Once complete, these radar systems will enter operational service next year. The upgrade is part of the Aquila-led Programme Marshall to modernise and support the MOD’s airfield air traffic management across the UK and overseas. Aquila is a joint venture between NATS, the international air traffic control services provider, and Thales in the UK, a global systems integrator.