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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2438


Senator MacGIBBON(5.14) —The final point to be made in the light of the Minister's statement this afternoon is that there would appear to be a very significant downgrading in the radar capability of the aircraft. If the Commonwealth is prepared to accept that, that is one thing. The basic rule of life is that we get what we pay for. The radar systems that are used in the Shrike Commander are apparently, on all the evidence we have, considerably inferior to Litton radar. I remind honourable senators that there are substantiated cases of fishermen who are alive today because their bodies were found because of the discrimination, the very fine sensitivity of the Litton set . We have no indication in any of the papers that have been tabled that the SLAR Ericsson radar is in any way comparable to the Litton with respect to its sensitivity, that is, its ability to find small targets.

The proposition outlined in the statement this afternoon that the weather radar in the nose of the aircraft has the ability to find a 20 metre craft at 20 nautical miles is indicative of a very insensitive set which is what we would expect. Weather radar in a Shrike Commander is an old type of radar. It has a very small antenna and all it is looking for is precipitation in rain clouds. It has a ground mapping mode, but that is so crude that it will find only a coastline when flying across it, or the like. Its discrimination of a 20 metre craft, which is roughly about 70 feet long, at a distance of 20 miles is something that, given good weather, one would detect with a visual technique probably at 50 or 60 miles at the operating altitudes of 2,000 or 3,000 feet at which this aircraft operates. The importance of this weather radar is that it is probably the only indication of what is ahead of the aircraft and what is going to pass underneath it. The sideways looking radar is only scanning either side of the track of the aircraft, which in many senses is less important than knowing what is ahead of and underneath the aircraft. Most importantly, this requirement to be able to find a 20 metre craft at 20 nautical miles is meaningless without a definition of the sea state in which it is found. The assumption I would make is that this large ship would be found at that range in flat, calm conditions. I doubt very much that in rough seas or cyclonic weather the performance would be anywhere near that. Without a statement on the sea state at which that detection is based, it is meaningless. From my experience of weather radars, I feel that Ericsson radar would be virtually useless in a sea surveillance role in bad weather.