RACAL-THORN Defence is to sell up to eight surveillance radars to China, in a deal worth around £40 million ($62 million). The radars are variants of the Searchwater, which is used in maritime surveillance and airborne early-warning applications by the UK armed forces.

Negotiations over the sale have been under way for at least three years. The Chinese navy will fit the radar to an unspecified aircraft platform - possibly the SAC Y-8C four-turboprop medium-range transport, or an upgrade of the HAMC SH-5 maritime-patrol and surveillance flying boat. The Thorn side of Racal has had a long relationship with the Chinese armed forces, primarily through the sale of a large number of Cymberline artillery-locating radars during the 1980s.

The bid is separate to a Chinese air force requirement for an airborne early-warning capability, with Israel Aircraft Industries' (IAI) Phalcon and GEC-Marconi Avionics' Argus radars the most likely candidates. An Israeli bid to supply China with a Phalcon-equipped Ilyushin Il-76, has stalled because of IAI's failure to obtain an aircraft from Russia (Flight International, 17-23 July).

Racal's updated Searchwater 2000 radar will be fitted in the British Aerospace Nimrod 2000, which in July won the UK's replacement-maritime-patrol-aircraft competition.

Racal declines to comment on the Chinese deal.

Source: Flight International