Friday, 20 January 2017

Jamaica Acquires Maritime Surveillance Aircraft


KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Government is to acquire a surveillance aircraft as part of a raft of new measures to strengthen the country’s border-protection system. 
This was disclosed by Minister of National Security, Robert Montague, during a press briefing at his Oxford Road offices in St Andrew on Wednesday. 
He said the Government “has taken a very conscious decision that we are going to invest heavily in national security to ensure citizens’ safety and security”.  
He informed that the aircraft, which has already been purchased and will be in the island by July, will not become operational until early next year, “because we have to build specialised surveillance equipment and fit it on to that aircraft”. 
In the meantime, the minister informed that Jamaica is to acquire an additional naval ship, outfitted with a helicopter, from the United Kingdom (UK) early next month. 
 “This will not only assist us in dominating the marine environment but will also assist with search and rescue (efforts),” he said. 
A vessel was recently procured through the Jamaica Customs Agency. 
Additionally, the minister noted that following bilateral meetings with the United States Government, both countries have agreed to share intelligence “because a lot of the traffic in our waters is being monitored by the United States navy and coast guard”. 
He noted that through these and other measures, in collaboration with key trading partners, including Canada,  the Government “will be providing sufficient dominance of our marine space to do search and rescue, stop the flow of drugs, stop the flow of guns and, most importantly, to protect our fishing resources”. 
The minister informed that the Administration is also looking at establishing an islandwide radar network “to cover every square inch of our coastline and much of the marine space”. 
 “(With this network) whether it is a man on a raft, or two men in a little canoe, or (several) people in a big ship, we will have sight of them once they come within a certain distance of the Jamaican coastline,” he said.
This announcement is a positive development. It is commendable when the security minister recognizes the need for electronic surveillance and other equipment to strengthen border security. Nevertheless, I have a few gripes:
He informed that the aircraft, which has already been purchased and will be in the island by July, will not become operational until early next year, “because we have to build specialised surveillance equipment and fit it on to that aircraft”.
Really? Why buy an aircraft that needs to then be fitted with equipment when there are out-of-box solutions available? There are the AHRLAC, the LH-10 Guardian, the Britten-Norman Defender and the RC-208 Caravan etc. It will be interesting to see what they've bought, and then spend more money to outfit. One glaring omission from the shopping list: unmanned aerial vehicles.

Clockwise from bottom left: RC-208, AHRLAC, LH-10 and the Britten-Norman Defender
In the meantime, the minister informed that Jamaica is to acquire an additional naval ship, outfitted with a helicopter, from the United Kingdom (UK) early next month.
Right on the heels of trading in three Stan Patrol vessels for two newer versions, the minister says a third and much bigger ship is to join the mission. One with a helipad. Are we talking about a corvette-class warship here? Like the one shown below? I don't think the JDF is in need of a seaborne helicopter platform, but they do need amphibious capability (Combat Boat 90) and at least one air base, so they can stop operating out of civil airports.

Corvette warship
Corvette-class warship
The minister informed that the Administration is also looking at establishing an islandwide radar network “to cover every square inch of our coastline and much of the marine space”.
A game changer if this is accomplished. Quite a long shot with our budgetary constraints but it's not impossible. There is also another network that is needed: a network of spies. The security minister should also look at expanding human intelligence.