Air Traffic Control: New radar to usher in a new era
The purchase deal of a state-of-the-art radar system, long overdue for safe aircraft navigation and control of air traffic through the country's airspace, is expected to be finalised in a couple of months.
The ultra-modern radar will enhance the country's airspace safety, ensure safe landing of aircraft in adverse weather and improve the communication system which is now very weak.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) recently issued a letter requesting the French government to authorise the radar-maker Thales to supply the long-range sophisticated radar, said a top Caab official.
The radar costing between Tk 600 to Tk 700 crore will be purchased following a government-to-government (G2G) deal.
First a memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be signed with the French government on authorising Thales. Then Bangladesh will negotiate with the company, and an inter-ministerial committee has already been formed for this, added the official.
"The purchase of the radar was under process for quite a long time. Now it has reached a matured stage," Caab Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told The Daily Star recently.
He further said it may take around three years to install the new radar in Dhaka and fully implement the system which will enhance Caab's capacity to control air traffic communications with any commercial aircraft flying over Bangladesh.
The country now has two radars -- at the international airports in Dhaka and Chittagong. These age-old radars have serious dearth of capacity to ensure surveillance of the airspace which has now expanded significantly with Bangladesh winning the maritime disputes with Myanmar and India.
"A number of air routes are passing through the country's south airspace. As the existing radar systems cannot control commercial air traffic on the routes, India is now providing the service," said the Caab chairman.
However, Bangladesh gets a share of revenue that India earns from the service.
"Once the new radar system is installed, our control will be established and we will earn a good amount from services to aircraft flying through the routes in the south," said Mafidur Rahman.
Bangladesh has hardly any control over its vast airspace as the existing radar in Dhaka is 36-year-old and has gone through modification several times. The other radar in Chattogram is also very old. With these, the communication system can go out of order anytime, Caab officials said.
The radar in Dhaka can communicate 200 nautical miles and able to see aircraft within 100 nautical miles. The one in Chattogram can detect aircraft far at 240 nautical miles and its communication capacity is a bit more.
The new radar will be connected through integrated networking system, covering the entire airspace up to the sea boundary.
The technical specification of the new radar has already been completed with the support of ICAO's technical cooperation bureau specialist.
The Caab took initiatives to replace the old radar in Dhaka in 2005.
In 2012, a company proposed to install the radar at Tk 330 crore under the public-private partnership. After all formalities, tender was floated and four companies took part in the bidding in 2015.
Caab primarily selected a company and sent the proposal to the ministry for final approval, but the ministry rejected it as it showed unusual expenditure.
Then again in September 2018 initiative was taken as per the order of Prime Minister's Office to make the purchase under the project titled "Communications, Navigation and Surveillance/ Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM)" under G2G process.