Selex radar useless against narcos

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Minister of Security Raúl Mulino steadfastly refuses to tell us what the specifications are of the radar coastal monitoring system he purchased from SELEX Sistemi Integrati. He says that if he reveals that information, it would help drug smugglers and other criminals.

No problem, Raúl. We'll do it for you. The system that was bought consists of a national control centre made of 16 consoles, which will receive data from the 18 Lyra 50 radars, also provided together with eight regional centres, each one made of six controller working positions. The specifications of the Lyra 50 coastal surveillance radars can be found here in a Selex brochure.

And you know what? This is a totally useless purchase. Why? Because drug traffickers that operate along Panama's coasts typically use small lanchas made of polyester. Very low on the water, and if they hug the coast and there is a bit of wave action no radar will see them. This is why for example sailing yachts are usually equipped with a radar reflector, in the hope that at least some radar signal will bounce and make them show up on the screens, because their fiberglass hulls and aluminium masts won't accomplish that. Same goes, by the way, for wood.

So what is Mulino planning to do with these radar stations? Track Costa Rican war ships? Freighters? The ACP has that capability already. So not only is this whole radar deal mired in corruption, it's also a completely unnecessary purchase costing Panamanian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Vamos bien! (Hat tip to JC for putting us on the right track).

15 thoughts on “Selex radar useless against narcos

  1. Just think of the money that can be made from these radars protecting illegal movements! Such as, where the USCG Cutter is currently and what direction, speed etc valuable real time information to sell via pre paid disposable cell phones etc.

  2. jc,

    Absolutely correct!

    They are designed to assist Navigation, not detection!

    It seems the Nation Police Boarder Navel & Air Service Occupational Forces are the biggest boosters of Panamanian Drug and Money Laundering trade!

    SO, The Big question is why does Panama need all this unnecessary heavy Military Hardware?

    The US, Colombian, and Costa Rica all have Air & Sea Coastal Patrols, Radars, and the US has a rather large Ocean going flotilla Off both coasts of Panama along with AWACS & complete Satellite observation of Panama and the surrounding vicinity!!

    The US Navy and the US Geological have mapped both coasts and every inch of Panama’s interior prior to World War one!

    SO, why was the Loan nare for almost $750Million of which over $400Million is not accounted for after buying $333Million in unnecessary Military hardware.

    Martinelli is an Italian Citizen!

    So, may be a RED warrant will be Issued by INTERPOL any time for Martinelli and his henchmen??

    “Panama where the numbers never add up”

  3. With pork barrel radar one doesn’t catch drug traffickers. Instead, one uses surveillance drones equipped with the proper cameras (transparent plastic isn’t transparent outside the visual spectrum).
    It happens already:

    Not to mention that the present regime is likely to be familiar with drone offers from Israel (photo):

  4. Yes, An eye in the sky with FLIR like the Blackhawks that fly overhead at night in the in the Bay of Panama especially new moons. Of course these are U.S. not Italian and the Gringos won’t give or sell Bananama one.

  5. Equipment solely for surveillance could be a graduation project for students of a technical university. The goal is to have a set of special-purpose cameras in the air that cover a large enough area and also can “see” through clouds. Cameras and the vehicle are remote-controlled.

    Because the vehicle’s speed is irrelevant, it can consist of an electric motor running on batteries charged by solar panels, which also supplies the computer in charge of position (via GPS), the cameras, and the communication (data, status) to the surveillance center, with power.

    At a height of 24 Km, the covered area is a circle with a radius of 500 Km – covering all of Panama plus coastal areas when hovering over Santiago.

    All components required for the project are available as mass production articles so the cost will be much lower than that of a universal drone, and no one can prevent construction.

    As anyone with some technical skills could formulate and make a design (on paper) of a prototype, there might be an obvious reason, this seems not to have happened, yet 😉

  6. The thing is, the US is already flying around here with AWACS planes. I can see them come and go from my house. Plus they already fly drones. You’re much more likely to find a fast launch using a tool that registers heat from the air than with radar. So, if the US is already active here with surveillance, why this radar?

  7. “Drones” is also used by many Panamanians in reference to the police as in drone bees “zánganos”

    A most fitting comparison in most cases

  8. that is not confirmed if you believe the press that tech is not here yet…and it doesn’t matter Panama has not capacity to intercept the flood of fast boat making land as well as the narco subs….all in all the current govt wasted money on this radar….

  9. Drones equipped with IR cameras would have made trafficking by motorboat impossible, years ago. That this hasn’t happened could have the same reason that although the Taliban had eradicated poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, that country became the world’s number one heroin exporter after NATO occupation.

    The only way to keep the trade in Latin America going is US surveillance in name only, without control by allies that it actually occurs, and to equip key allies in the bogus war on drugs with useless stuff like radars – as long as the public believes their govt really uses it to combat the traffickers.

    As the radar isn’t effective anyway, it doesn’t even have to be fully operational so there can be a large difference between the real cost (paid) and the cost stated in the contract. The difference then is used as hush-money to keep it secret.

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