New system to protect UK from aerial threats installed at RAF Boulmer

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RAF Boulmer is at the heart of a new command and control system helping to protect the UK from aerial threats.

It is the first air base to receive GUARDIAN, a new technology which provides a dynamic, real-time map of both friendly and hostile aircraft.

Managed by Defence Equipment and Support - the MOD’s procurement arm - and delivered by IBM, the system links the radars and radios of the UK and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) to communicate between the ground and aircraft.

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While radar and radio communication has existed at RAF bases for decades, GUARDIAN brings in new features which improve functionality, increasing national security.

The GUARDIAN console at RAF Boulmer. Picture: MoDThe GUARDIAN console at RAF Boulmer. Picture: MoD
The GUARDIAN console at RAF Boulmer. Picture: MoD

Dr Simon Dakin, DE&S director of Integrated Battlespace Operating Centre, said: “Delivering this step change in capability is a massive achievement, reflecting superb joint working between the RAF, DE&S and IBM. The capability delivers a significant enhancement to UK security.”

GUARDIAN will also be installed at RAF 78 Sqn in Swanwick, Hampshire.

The Control Reporting Centres operate 24/7 and will have 50 dual workstations at Boulmer and 29 dual workstations at Swanwick which, when fully operated, could be staffed by more than 100 RAF battlespace management personnel at the two sites.

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The command-and-control upgrades of GUARDIAN will continue improving the rapid exchange of real-time information and speed and accuracy of decision making.

The GUARDIAN command and control centre at RAF Boulmer.The GUARDIAN command and control centre at RAF Boulmer.
The GUARDIAN command and control centre at RAF Boulmer.

It also receives early warnings from NATO reporting centres to prepare the UK for incoming potential threats.

GUARDIAN enables the RAF to despatch fighter jets to identify, intercept and escort aircraft being flown aggressively, or which are suspected of being a threat.

It can also be used to escort aircraft of special interest, such as a passenger airliner that might have lost communications with Air Traffic Control.

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Officer Commanding 19 Squadron, Wing Commander Chris Misiak, said: “The new GUARDIAN system provides a capability which has more capacity to cope with the demands of Homeland Air Defence whilst also preparing operators to support missions across the globe. It is an exciting time.”

An RAF Typhoon. Picture: MoDAn RAF Typhoon. Picture: MoD
An RAF Typhoon. Picture: MoD

The contract with IBM covers equipment delivery and the first five years of logistic support up to 2027.

It supports jobs at IBM in Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Northumberland.

Roles include software developers, data link engineers, cyber security specialists, electrical engineering specialists, communications engineers and project managers.

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Sreeram Visvanathan, chief executive of IBM UK and Ireland, said: “IBM has provided capability in Air Command and Control to the RAF for over 20 years and it’s this expertise that enables us to continually enhance the UK's air defences.

"I am incredibly proud of my team who, alongside DE&S and RAF colleagues, worked throughout the pandemic to ensure this critical GUARDIAN system was delivered on time.

"We look forward to continuing the relationship with the RAF to enhance the system's capabilities in the UK, and to building new relationships with our allies across Europe to provide the overall NATO air picture for many years to come.”

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