Recent reports state a planned acquisition of Israeli radars by Czech Republic in jeopardy…this may not be the case!
Controversy is surrounding the planned acquisition by the Czech Republic of eight Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) EL/M-2084 S-band (2.3 gigahertz/GHz to 2.5GHz/2.7-3.7GHz) ground-based air surveillance radars.
The eight radars were ordered in December 2016 with an estimated acquisition cost of $161 million (in 2016 values), with deliveries expected to occur between 2019 and 2021. Since the announcement of the purchase, the programme has appeared to stall over disagreements regarding the ability of the radars to connect with NATO’s emerging Air Command and Control System (ACCS).
ACCS replaces a disparate series of national air Command and Control (C2) systems, and air mission planning/execution capabilities, across the majority of the alliance’s European membership (sans the UK which is pursuing its own Project Guardian initiative (see story) with a scalable ensemble of hardware and software to accommodate both air C2 and air operations planning/execution missions.
Back in March, the Czech Republic’s Defence Minister Karla Šlechtová announced the postponement of the EL/M-2084 acquisition articulating concerns that the radar could not be connected to NATO’s ACCS architecture. Like several European NATO nations, the Czech Republic Air Force is receiving the ACCS suite as a replacement for its legacy SEKTOR system currently used for providing the C2 for the Czech Republic’s Integrated Air Defence System. Local media reports stated that Ms. Šlechtová had stated that the country’s Cyber and Information Agency had not approved the purchase of the radars, and that the acquisition could not continue without this. Moreover, on 7 June, NATO’s Air and Missile Defence Command and Control Security Accreditation Board (AMDCCSAB) stated that the EL/M-2084 radars could not be integrated into NATO’s ACCS architecture as the system was not manufactured by an Alliance member.
What exactly is going on regarding the Czech EL/M-2084 acquisition? Firstly, a statement provided to MONCh by a NATO official specified that the alliance has not refused outright to connect the EL/M-2084 radar to the alliance’s wider air C2 architecture, disputing earlier reports that it could not be connected as it was not designed and built by a NATO member stating that: “Several allies operate air defence equipment that has been manufactured outside the alliance.”
Nevertheless, they stressed the importance of ensuring that any radar which will connect with the ACCS must be capable of operating with the system safely. “What matters for NATO is that the equipment allies have is ‘interoperable’; safe to operate and secure to use within NATO.” This is unsurprising given the need to ensure that a highly networked system such as the ACCS, which will eventually include most of the alliance’s European membership as it rolls out over the next decade, can operate in a safe and secure fashion, particularly given increasing concerns regarding the cyber threat to air operations. However, the NATO statement disputes that the alliance has point blank refused to integrate the EL/M-2084 into the ACCS architecture: “NATO’s (AMDCCSAB) has discussed with the Czech authorities its planned purchase of a radar system made in Israel and identified in a first step the applicable NATO security policies, regulations and processes. NATO has strict security requirements which need to be met before any system, no matter where it has been manufactured, can be connected to NATO networks.” Finally, the alliance stressed that it will continue to work with the Czech authorities “about the potential integration of this system into NATO networks.”
For its part IAI’s position seems to chime with that of NATO’s in refuting reports that the alliance had refused to connect the EL/M-2084 radar to the ACCS architecture outright. “Due to reasons which are not technically or security related, various inaccuracies have surfaced recently relating to NATO directives,” an IAI written statement supplied to MONch articulated. “NATO did not issue a directive not to connect the EL/M-2084 radar to the NATO network, but merely stated that these matters which are common to several member states require adequate procedures.”
The firm stated that it is already highly familiar regarding NATO’s security regulations regarding system connectivity, citing the company’s supply of two EL/W-2085 L-band (1.215-1.4GHz) and S-band airborne early warning radars mounted on two Gulfstream G-550 business jet airframes to the Italian Air Force. By virtue of these aircraft equipping the force, their radars are networked into NATO’s air C2 architecture via their communications links such as the alliance’s LINK-16 (960 megahertz to 1.215GHz) tactical data link with which the aircraft is believed to be equipped. This permits the sharing of track and tactical data with other NATO allies. The written statement continued that, “to adapt our products to NATO customers and national requirements, (the company) works in close collaboration with local partners who hold appropriate NATO classification.”
Thus it is expected that IAI, the Czech government and NATO will continue to work together to ensure that the EL/M-2084 radars can operate safely and securely with NATO’s emerging ACCS architecture, with reports of the acquisition’s demise being somewhat exaggerated.