Cost of Maintaining Aging ATC Radars Concerns FAA

 - October 9, 2007, 6:23 AM

In the wake of September 11 the FAA has decided to shelve earlier plans to decommission the U.S.-wide network of ATC primary radar installations. Some officials, however, have expressed concern about the increasing–and currently unbudgeted–maintenance needs of radar stations in future years. The fear is that escalating costs to keep primary radars in operation could have a damaging effect on the agency’s NAS modernization plan. Yet it is the Defense Department, say observers, that may bear the heavier financial burden. An MIT study presented to a recent NASA conference on airspace security suggested that providing complete domestic primary radar surveillance for Homeland Security and law enforcement would require 51 new installations–estimated by one attendee to cost $20 million apiece–to complement the military’s seaward-looking coastal radar chain. Complicating the matter, however, is the fact that the FAA and DOD radars operate independently, while the study calls for complete interoperability and close controller coordination between them.