Maritime surveillance is all at sea…
Alan Warnes takes a look at the maritime surveillance situation in Africa and finds it to be somewhat patchy.
The United Nations says that maritime zones under Africa’s jurisdiction total about 13 million square kilometres, including territorial seas, and approximately 6.5 million square kilometres of the continental shelf.
Two thirds of the equivalent area of Africa’s landmass lies under the sea.
Of the 54 African states, 38 have coastlines. Their territorial waters usually stretch out 12 miles (19kms) from their coast. In Africa, that affects the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea and the Atlantic.
However, few states have any assets to patrol what is rightfully their territory.
Each country also has a 200mile (322km) economic exclusion zone (EEZ), allowing them special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. However, again, it seems that many rarely bother, despite the serious threats posed by pirates, terrorists, illegal fishing and smugglers.
The downside to maritime surveillance is, of course, the cost. Not many countries can afford the capital outlay or the running of an aircraft, related equipment and a mission centre. Regional cooperation could be a way forward but, in truth, there isn’t much of that either.
So who cares?
Nigeria is doing more than most to quell its maritime issues, which is not surprising given the massive problems it endures along its 500mile (800kms) coastline. In June 2016, the Nigerian Navy finally began operating the Falcon Eye mass surveillance system for operations across the Gulf of Guinea. Designed in Israel, but built by United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Falcon Technologies, the system is already operational in the desert kingdom. The company also manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which could be used in Falcon Eye.
Falcon Eye’s six electro-optical stations monitor aircraft, vessels and offshore oil infrastructure. In September 2015, the Nigerian Navy’s Rear Admiral Henry Babalola stated that his country and the entire Gulf of Guinea faced huge security problems that could be solved if the regional maritime awareness capability (RMAC) was complemented with the Falcon Eye surveillance project. The navy has admitted that there are “blind arcs” experienced with the RMAC in some parts of the country’s territorial waters.
Through its integral radar, camera and automatic identification system (AIS), the RMAC provides round-the–clock surveillance of the maritime environment up to 35 nautical miles from the coast.
Two Nigerian Air Force ATR42MP Surveyors, purchased in late-2009/10 for the maritime patrol role, plug into the new system.
At the heart of arguably the most modern maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) in Africa is the Selex ES (now Leonardo) airborne tactical observation and surveillance (ATOS) system with the impressive Sea Spray 7000E active electronically scanned array (AESA) multi-mode surveillance radar being the jewel of the aircraft’s crown.
The Surveyors are also equipped with flight-operable doors to drop emergency kits, plus large observation windows and fuselage pylons to carry a night searchlight or other equipment. Both flew to Edinburgh, Scotland in 2013, apparently so their systems could be upgraded for overland operations.
With such a vast radar range, some say 115 miles (185kms), both aircraft could search, track or locate any ship or vessel in Nigeria’s territorial waters within 15 minutes of departure from their base at Port Harcourt.
The Falcon Eye system appears to have taken over the previous operation run by the presidential ministerial committee on maritime security (PICOMSS), which was dissolved in 2012. The agency had been set up to protect Nigeria’s maritime domain and oil and gas installations. It had installed surveillance radars along Nigeria’s coast and is said to have had unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in its inventory, as well as several DA42MPPs.
In addition to Nigeria’s military shore-based surveillance systems, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said in late 2015 that it was considering the acquisition of drone aircraft for maritime domain awareness purposes.
For a country with a 2,500mile (4,000km) coastline, South Africa has little maritime surveillance capability.
An example of its airborne technological prowess is its reliance on five C-47TPs – of which four are more than 70 years old! They are operated by the South African Air Force (SAAF) 35 Squadron at Air Force Base Ysterplaat, to provide any airborne maritime surveillance requirements – with no electro optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors.
Basically, the navy will detect a contact and scramble the Dakotas to the target. There are examples of operators on board detecting submarines simply by using their radar to track the snorkel when it rises. It is now the only option as the SAAF lost the sonobuoy capability when the Shackleton was retired in1984.
For several years now, the SAAF has assembled teams to find a solution, but they always tend to fail because of funding issues. Several companies have been to South Africa marketing their solutions, some several times. Among them are Bombardier/Field (Dash 8 Q400), Lockheed Martin (SC-130J), RUAG (Do 228) and Saab (Saab 340 MSA). Other options could include the Viking Twin Otter, CN-235MP and ATR-42/72MP, offering a myriad of differing sensor solutions.
In 2011, the Ghana Government, fed up with poachers and illegal fishing by foreign trawlers and ships, did something about its problems.
In a £9 million ($11.2 million) deal, the UK-based DO Systems was contracted to provide a turn-key maritime reconnaissance system, which led to the Ghana Air Force acquiring two DA42 multi-purpose surveillance aircraft, one training DA42, a flight simulator and a full mission command centre. The aircraft are equipped with forward-looking infrared (FLIR), cameras and other sensors.
The DA42s are operated by 1 Squadron at Sekondi-Takoradi, and, as well as the surveillance of offshore oil production platforms and border patrol, they monitor the country’s EEZ.
Ghana’s government records indicate that 90% of all fish currently caught in the ocean are harvested well within its EEZ, while more than 80% of the world’s known and estimated hydrocarbon reserves are in the same zone.
DO Systems taught the sensor operators in the UK, while Diamond trained six pilots and six engineers in Austria before the aircraft were delivered in late-2011.
The DA42s works in tandem with a mission control centre by data-linking imagery from the aircraft’s EO/IR sensors. Use of satellite and microwave transmissions allows the government to see live imagery from anywhere in Ghanaian waters or borders. Images are also relayed via the internet, securely, to allow mobile devices such as iPad and iPhone to view the imagery live.
Along the northern African coastline, Morocco is searching for a new maritime surveillance aircraft to replace the Gendarmerie’s old fleet of around 16 BN-2T Defenders. They are used to protect the country’s EEZ and are also likely to be on the look-out for ships smuggling arms to the Sahrawi rebels (Polisario) in south Sahara.
Neighbouring Algeria operates a pair of Beech 350ER aircraft, acquired in July/August 2010. By mid-2012 one of had been modified for the maritime surveillance role by French company BCA (Business and Commuter Aircraft), with the installation of a Selex Galileo (now Leonardo) Gabbiano radar/ATOS system.
The integrated nature of the system allows a single operator to manage and operate the radar, automatic identification system (AIS) and EO sensor using the same tactical interface.
On March 14, 2013, Selex ES announced it had delivered an ATOS-equipped Beech 350ER platform to an undisclosed customer for use in the MPA role.
Libya acquired a single ATR42MP for the Interior Ministry’s General Security Agency for search and rescue and maritime tasks in 2008, but the aircraft was damaged during the 2011 Libyan war and is believed to lay derelict somewhere.
The Seychelles was once at the centre of the anti-piracy effort and used to detain those captured in the Indian Ocean by the EU/NATO/US until they were extradited.
The Seychelles Air Force continues to fulfil its anti-piracy responsibilities with a Do228 MSA acquired from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Kanpur in India.
The aircraft has been fitted with an Israeli Elta EL/M 2022 maritime radar system.
Working alongside the Do228 is a Twin Otter, equipped with a L3 Wescam MX-15 FLIR turret, and a Y-12 used for crew training.
A Royal Danish Air Force Challenger has also been based at Mahé Airport in the past, while a Royal New Zealand P-3K2 has done patrols when being swapped over in the UAE, where the RNZAF has a detachment patrolling the local waters.
A National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) was set up in August 2008 and the air force is tasked with assisting this unit as well as educating itself on drug traffickers and associates with a view to infiltrating and destroying their networks. The NDEA made 574 arrests in 2013, seizing 2.4kg of heroine worth SR 21 million ($1.6m).
The anti-piracy effort off the horn of Africa saw a huge increase in maritime patrol aircraft flying off the coast of Somalia.
Most were based at Djibouti, as part of the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) or Combined Task Force (CTF 151).
Together with NATO, all three deployed maritime patrol aircraft. Their presence continues, although attacks by pirates are not as common as they were between 2008-2013.