"We have a wealth of experience, not just in the procurement domain but also in the technical domain," noted Rene Thaens, Head of the Electronic Warfare and Sensors Branch for the NCI Agency. Mr Thaens is also the project manager for the Lithuanian Air Surveillance project.
Prior Lithuanian radars dated back to the era before the nation acceded to NATO in 2004. The capabilities of these systems could not meet NATO's needs, leading Lithuania to seek a modern air surveillance capability. The nearly 40 million EUR project began with a study, conducted by the Agency, on the country's radar capabilities. Based on the study's outcome, the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence requested the Agency run the procurement, which began in 2010.
Spanish company Indra provided the radar systems. The NCI Agency conducted factory acceptance tests, site acceptance tests and live flying tests, where an aircraft will fly against the radar to see if it can perform against a target.
Work to arrange secure communications was added to the scope of the project over time, Mr Thaens said. Communications must be secured between the radar and the central node digesting the data, which requires particular cryptographic equipment.
The Lithuanian government also chose to exercise an option for a third radar. The Agency expects to complete work on the third radar by around 2020.
Utilizing NATO's best practices and standards to complete the project has several benefits, including interoperability, Mr Thaens added. Nations can do such work independently, but that route can be difficult because the radars must be integrated into NATO's air surveillance system.
Nations who choose to standardize on a particular radar can also benefit from collective buying power around maintenance.