PH to upgrade old air station with air defense radar
MANILA, Philippines – A 54-year-old Philippine Air Force (PAF) facility will be upgraded to host an air defense surveillance radar as part of government efforts to to strengthen the country's territorial defense, according to the Department of National Defense.
"We give primacy to the enhancement of our capability to monitor and secure our territory. Gozar Air Station will play a major role as we shift our focus from internal security operations to territorial defense," Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a statement on Tuesday, March 24.
Gazmin inspected the facility on March 21.
Air defense radars will detect intrusions in the country's air space. It will work in tandem with the squadron of fighter jets acquired from South Korea, two due to arrive in the last quarter of 2015.
The Philippines has one remaining radar system at the Wallace air station in San Fernando, La Union, leaving its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) practically unprotected. That adar system also has limited range and is no longer fully operational.
Lubang Island is in Mindoro Occidental. It is located off Batangas province and is near Metro Manila.
The Philippine Star reported that the defense department signed the P2.6-billion ($58.18 million) deal with Israel’s Elta Systems in February. DND Public Affairs Office chief Arsenio Andolong said he is still verifying it.
The project is part of the capability upgrade of the Air Force, which is also acquiring a squadron of fighter jets from South Korea, long range patrol aircrafts, and anti-submarine helicopters, among other brand new air assets.
Military radars have more capabilities and sweep a wider area compared to the air traffic control radars of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), explained PAF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Enrico Canaya.
CAAP requires civilian aircraft to keep its transponders on, so its radars can see them. Military radars can see even malfunctioninng transponders or those that were deliberately turned off.
In case the radars detect unidentified aircraft within the country's air defense zone, Canaya said the PAF could scramble the fighter jets to verify it.
Military rules of engagement will be followed. It could turn out to be an aircraft in distress or, worse, an intruder.
The squadron of fighter jets acquired by the Philippines from South Korea are categorized as lead-in fighter trainers but PAF officers also consider them fighter jets because of their minimum fighter capabilities. (READ: PH Air Force a joke no more, gets fighter jets)
Based on initial talks, the two other radars will be installed in Palawan and Pasuquin in Ilocos Norte.
The Philippines had first rate air defense capabilities from the 1950s until the early 1990s when radar systems were in place as well as several squadrons of F-86F and fighters like F-5s.
The US, which used to maintain bases here, also complemented the country’s air defense capabilities. – Rappler.com
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