Kathmandu, January 24
Nepal’s airspace is set to come under 75 per cent radar coverage from February 1 with the installation of technologically-advanced radar system in Bhatte Danda in Lalitpur.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal with support from Japanese International Corporation Agency has installed the radar station, which was constructed under the 2013-2016 Grant Aid TIA project worth 989 million Japanese Yen (around Rs 922 million). The new radar system is undergoing test along with the old radar system as per TIA officials.
Considered one of the most advanced radar systems in the world, the Mono-pulse Secondary Surveillance Radar is said to cover a range of 250 nautical miles of air space. This means that the radar can now scan airplanes within a radius of 450 km from the central MSSR station. The radar thus can cover all the area of Nepal except for the western parts to Surkhet. It can also track aircraft flying in Indian territory, over the Bay of Bengal and various parts beyond the Himalayas in the north, as per project manager Sanjeev Singh Kathayat.
The radar currently in use can track aircraft up to 50 nautical miles and thus it had started getting difficult to manage air traffic system.
Kathayat said, “The use of the advanced radar system will not enable us to give precise locations of infinite numbers of aircraft within its coverage but also help us reduce any chances of air crashes.” The radar is located about 10 km south of TIA on a hilltop which is 2,340 m above form sea level. The radar, however, cannot scan aircraft that flying between mountains or below the height of 500 feet, according to TIA officials.
For example, an airplane that descends to less than 700 feet for landing at the Simara airport cannot be traced by the radar. Similarly, some airplanes that do not come into the line of sight of the radar, also known as ‘blind spot’ cannot be scanned by the system.
Information received by the Bhatedada station is transmitted to TIA through an electromagnetic wave called microwave that travels almost at the speed of light. While the recent radar that is inside the TIA can accommodate 4,096 airplanes, this new radar can accommodate more than 17 million aircraft, according to engineers involved in the project. The new system will however be still useless to aircraft that do not have in-built transponder. Kathayat said 10 per cent of total aircraft in Nepal do not have transponder.
Representative of JICA Jun Sakuma expressed hope that the new radar system would drastically improve air traffic system in Nepal. Similarly, Japanese Ambassador to Nepal Masashi Ogawa said Japan was willing to provide further support and contribute to the aviation sector of Nepal. “I hope this support from us will strengthen relations between our two countries,” Masahi said. JICA has been providing support to the country’s civil aviation sector since 1988. It has launched three grant aid projects at TIA since then. Bhatte Danda, where the new radar system has been installed, is the same place where a Pakistan jet plane crashed killing all 167 people on board in 1992.
A version of this article appears in print on January 25, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.