The first phase of a £127m scheme to replace the UK's air traffic control radar network has gone live.
Nineteen radar stations are to be replaced as part of the upgrade
The new system at Burrington in north Devon is the first of the National Air Traffic Services' 19 radar stations to be replaced as part of a nine-year upgrade programme.
The new radars provide a higher standard of information, greater
reliability, and more advanced technology, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said.
The north Devon radar surveys the skies over South Wales, the West Country and the Western Approaches.
It supplies information to air traffic controllers at the London Area
Control Centre at Swanwick in Hampshire, and also RAF controllers at the Military Air Services Operations Room, near Heathrow.
Dr Rob Witty, NATS chief technology officer, said: "The new radar network is a critical element of the systems supporting UK air traffic control."
The new equipment at Burrington uses a primary radar to show an
aircraft's position which is tracked as a "blip" on the air traffic
controller's radar display.
It also has a secondary radar which can electronically request more
information about an aircraft's flight level, route or destination.
Radar installations at 18 other sites across the UK are to be replaced by 2012.
NATS plans to replace two radar installations each year, with Sumburgh in the Shetland Isles and Cromer in Norfolk scheduled for 2004.
Future sites earmarked for the new radars are Alanshill in Aberdeenshire; Belfast; Claxby in Lincolnshire; Clee Hill near Ludlow; Debden in Essex; Gatwick; Glasgow; Great Dun Fell in Cumbria; Heathrow; Lowther Hill in Lanarkshire; Pease Pottage near Crawley; Perwinnes Hill near Aberdeen; Sandwick on Stornoway; St Anne's near Blackpool; Stansted, and Tiree.