Finland – GroundMaster-400 Radar Enters Service

Finland Air Force GM-403 (ChainHomeHigh)
Finland Air Force GM-403 (ChainHomeHigh)

Franco-American radar specialists ThalesRaytheonSystems (TRS) have completed Site Acceptance Testing (SAT) of the first Ground Master-403 radar (known locally as the ‘KEVA-2010’ for the Soumi Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air force/FAF) on 15th January. The company presented this radar on 15th January at the FAF base located at Tikkakoski, Central Finland, following its delivery at the end of July 2012. A second GM-403 radar is already in Finland, with a third beginning its journey to the country from France. The radars are manufactured at Thales’s facilities in Limour, south of Paris.

Finland has ordered twelve radars, along with Estonia which is acquiring two via a bilateral €200 million contract concluded with TRS in May 2009. The contract includes the supply of the radars and associated equipment such as trucks and generators; the latter of which is being provided by Finnish companies. TRS expects to complete the delivery of all 14 radars to both countries by 2014.

The S-band GM-400 three-dimensional radar family provides a surveillance range of up to 470 kilometres (250 nautical miles). Finland’s GM-403 radars are also equipped with a Thales Communications TSA-3521 Identification Friend or Foe interrogator.

The value of the Finnish segment of the contract is €150 million, of which €10 million covers the construction and preparation of the sites which will host the GM-403s. By this calculation, the value of the supply of the GM-403s to Estonia is €40 million.

The cooperation with Estonia has included common programme reviews; shared design and qualification testing; and joint training. Furthermore, the original Request for Quotations was published with harmonized requirements from both countries.

In Finland, the GM-403s will be deployed at unmanned sites with personnel only being required to move the radars, or to perform maintenance. During day-to-day service, the radars will be housed inside a radome.

Speaking in Jyvaskyla, Central Finland on 15th January prior to the handover ceremony, Dominique Simonneau, Senior Vice President for Business Development at TRS, told ChainHomeHigh that, to date, the company had delivered ten GM-400 family long-range air surveillance radars to customers around the world including Slovenia and Malaysia which have acquired two and one GM-400 examples respectively. Mr. Simonneau says that, of the 33 GM-400 family radars which have been ordered so far, around one third are fixed-site GM-406 radars with the rest being transportable GM-403 models.

There is a high degree of commonality between these two systems, although the GM-406 is understood to possess a longer range compared to the GM-403. France is meanwhile acquiring two GM-406 radars, one of which will be based in French Guiana for the protection of the Guiana Space Centre in Latin America and the other for installation at the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) Base Aérienne-403 (Air Base 403) near Nice on the southern French Mediterranean coast. The country is also receiving a GM-403 radar to provide deployable air surveillance. Germany has ordered six GM-406s to equip the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) under the terms of a contract worth €105 million, which will replace the same number of Thomson-CSF (now Thales) Medium Power Radars procured in the late 1970s.

Other customers include Canada (one system), Chile and Morocco. Thales will not confirm the last two countries as GM-400 customers, although it is understood that they are each receiving three systems.

As part of the contract with Finland and Estonia, TRS will also upgrade five Thomson-CSF Teresa-22XX (a.k.a TRS-22XX) S-band 470km range long-range three-dimensional air search radars to extend the life of these systems until 2025. This initiative will see the replacement of the radars’ receiver, signal processor and data processor elements. The upgrade is expected to be completed in 2015.

Some elements of the GM-400’s architecture will be used in the Teresa-22XX upgrade, and the value of the contract for the Teresa-22XX upgrade is €30 million with an additional €10 million of work to be performed at the Teresa-22XX sites. The Teresa-22XX radars were ordered in 1988 and all five had been delivered by 1995, with operational readiness being achieved by 1998.

In FAF service, the GM-403 is replacing the legacy KEVA Finnish-developed and built medium-range air defence radar which entered service in 1978. KEVA radars are deployed at 18 sites across the country. The KEVA radars will be decommissioned as the GM-403 enters service, with all KEVA radars retiring by the end of 2015. The GM-403’s improvements in range, capability and robustness to countermeasures, has enabled the FAF to avoid having to perform a one-for-one replacement of the KEVA.

Other radars which comprise the FAF Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) include the Saab (previously Ericsson) Giraffe-100 mobile short-range radars which provide the lowest altitude coverage. The GM-403s will transmit their information across a Link-16-based communications network to IADS control centres.

The Chief of the FAF General Kari Salmi told ChainHomeHigh during the radar handover event that; “the basic mission of the FAF is the safeguard Finnish airspace, by acquiring the GM-403s we are improving the tools to generate the national airspace Recognized Air Picture (RAP).”

In a separate development, General Salmi mentioned that Finland is in discussions with Sweden, Norway, Estonia and NATO regarding the establishment of an Air Information Data Exchange programme. This would allow these countries to share filtered versions of their domestic RAP to enhance international airspace surveillance, particularly where operations involving several nations, such as search and rescue at sea, are concerned. Gen. Salmi hopes that plans will be drafted for the implementation of the Air Information Data Exchange programme by the end of this year.

Published by Thomas Withington

Thomas Withington is a writer and analyst specialising in electronic warfare, radar and military communications.

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