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MoD warns radar problem ‘could affect flights’

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

The Ministry of Defence’s radar, which is used by air traffic controllers, is undergoing maintenance that could impact on flights to the Rock.

The MoD confirmed the maintenance after a flight was diverted to Malaga at the weekend due to low visibility. The flight was able to later land in Gibraltar.

The MoD said the diversion was unrelated to the radar issue.

But it acknowledged too that calibration checks showed the radar was not operating to the level of accuracy required for a flight safety critical system.

The reason for this is not yet known.

The radar is currently undergoing maintenance checks by Aquila engineers and “it is possible that some flights in the future will be affected by this until the issue is rectified,” the MoD said.

It added that timelines for when the work might be completed could not yet be identified.

“On Sunday 13 November 2022, one inbound flight was diverted from Gibraltar to Malaga airport due to low cloud,” a spokesperson for the MoD said.

“The diversion was not due to radar maintenance.”

“The affected flight refuelled at Malaga and proceeded to land in Gibraltar shortly after.”

Earlier this year, a new radar system was delivered by a Chinook helicopter to the top of the Rock.

The new kit is part of Programme Marshall, a £1.5 billion MoD programme to upgrade and support terminal air traffic management capability.

But the new radar equipment installed is not due to be operational until 2023.

New radar installations require a considerable period of development and assurance once assembled on site, the MoD said.

The concern about the radar follows disruption on several different occasions this year as flights were delayed or diverted due to staffing problems at air traffic control, which is provided by the UK-based NATS under contract to the MoD.

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