Yemen Upgrading Coastal Defense With Selex Radars
Finmeccanica subsidiary Selex Sistemi Integrati has signed a EUR 20 million (currently about $26 million) contract with the Yemenite Coast Guard for the supply of its Vessel Traffic System (VTS). The delivery, due to be completed within 2008, includes a national control center in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, an area control centre in Aden, 6 local control centers, 12 radar workstations and 2 mobile units. All centres will be in net and connected with the national centre in Sana’a. VTS is already in use with Greece, Russia, Poland, and Italy which boasts the largest installation. See release.
The system will provide coverage of about 450 kilometres along Yemen’s Red Sea coasts, and in front of the Eritrean and Somalian coasts, and “represents a first step of a complete surveillance programme including two further development phases.” The release adds that Yemen’s system “will deploy its capabilities also to prevent piracy, intrusion, international smuggling and will be open to allow integration of further capabilities for naval security.”
This all needs to be seen in the context of events across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Smuggling via Yemen has been a major point of entry for radical Islamists from many countries who are sympathetic to the Salafist Islamic Courts guerillas in Somalia, and for supplies. Piracy is also a growing concern in that area, so close to the passage from the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal. Control of that area is critical, and reference to “the Eritrean and Somalian coasts” quietly leaves out Djibouti – an important base for western navies, the French Foreign Legion, and US Marines in the region. Selex Sistemi’s contract and follow-on phases will make it far easier for Yemen’s government to control those access points in future – or to allow others to do so.