Final handover later this year, but questions remain over intellectual property rights

The Australian Department of Defence's Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) has begun 24h surveillance operations. Meanwhile issues over intellectual property rights (IPR) are likely to be finalised shortly. Australia does not exclusively own the IPR, and has licensed industry to use the technology

Decisions are also due this month on funding initial system upgrades, although Australian defence minister Robert Hill has hinted that money may not be included in the 2003-4 defence budget.

JORN began 24h operational surveillance on 1 April, ahead of full system acceptance, planned for the middle of this year. The radar has been used on a partial basis since March 2001 during system testing and evaluation.

An initial upgrade, intended to introduce a new multi-radar, multi-track data fusion capability, has been in Australia's 10-year defence capability plan (DCP) for the last two years, with approval targeted for next month.

Hill said on 2 April: "The upgrades haven't come forward for decision yet, but we will want to continue to develop the capability in the years ahead." Budget proposals have to go before a cabinet committee before mid-April to appear in May approvals.

The upgrade would cost A$50-75 million ($30-45 million). The DCP includes a further proposal for a A$150-200 million mid-life upgrade in the 2010-11 budget.

During a demonstration earlier this month, JORN detected and tracked air targets along the Australian coastline 1,100-1,800km (595-970nm) from radar antennas in central and south-western Australia. Operator displays indicated that the radar is localising contacts to 15km and providing target speed data of tenths of knots.

Air Cdr Greg Hockings, Defence Materiel Organisation head of strategic high-frequency projects, says operational acceptance has been achieved "within budget" despite a troubled history. He adds that "final acceptance is projected by the middle of this year".

Source: Flight International