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Britain Orders Giraffe Air Defense Radars for Falklands

August 24, 2015 (Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin)

LONDON — Britain has ordered additional Saab-built Giraffe AMB radars to bolster ground-based air defenses on the Falkland Islands against a possible future threat from Argentina.

The Swedish company announced Aug. 24 that it had received an order valued at 610 Swedish krona million (US $74 million) from the UK Ministry of Defence for the supply of new radars and the upgrade of existing systems.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence declined to comment on the destination of the new radars.

The MoD confirmed in the first quarter of the year it was upgrading Falkland's air defenses including mandating the use of the Giraffe in the update.

Sources familiar with Britain's ground-based air defense effort confirmed the majority of the work announced today was destined for the Falklands.

A Saab spokesman declined to comment on where the new radars could be deployed following delivery. 

Purchase of the medium range 3-D radars is part of a wider program being undertaken by the British to improve the air defenses of the South Atlantic islands.

An industry competition to supply a new battle management C4I system is currently being fought by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Saab and possibly others.

The MoD has already selected missile maker MBDA's future local area air defense system (FLAADS) to replace aging Rapier weapons on the islands as part of the upgrade.

FLAADS is currently in a £228 million (US $357.6 million) development phase at MBDA.

In 1982, Britain fought a war with Argentina over the islands, which Buenos Aires calls the Malvinas. A dispute over sovereignty of the territory continues to rumble on at the diplomatic level.

The UK stations Typhoon combat jets, warships, helicopters and troops on the islands to defend the overseas territory, which lays some 300 miles off the Argentine coast.

The Argentines have for several years been trying to modernize a combat jet force of A-4 Skyhawks and Super Etendards so far without success.

The Giraffe contract was secured by Saab in the summer but is only now being officially announced.

The company said in a statement that deliveries will start this year and continue through to 2018.

The British have been operating Giraffe since an urgent operational requirement in 2007 saw three systems leased from the Swedes for use in Afghanistan and Iraq. The British later purchased new radars.

It is reckoned the British have around six Giraffes, although it is not known how many of those are already based in the Falklands.

An MoD source said the new order would take the Giraffe force into double figures.

Saab said the upgrade work planned for existing Giraffes would take the radar up to the current production standard and would allow the system to take advantage of future upgrades.

The Swedish company specifically mentioned a future capability to spot small unmanned air systems while screening out difficult radar clutter such as birds.

Micael Johansson, head of Saab's electronic defense systems business, said the new order was a "significant expansion and upgrade of the Giraffe radar fleet with the UK MoD."

Email: achuter@defensenews.com

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