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Czech radar company sold

The most formidable Czech military defensive tool - the Vera surveillance radar, which is the only system that can detect the "invisible" U.S. Stealth bomber - is now owned by Americans. U.S. surveillance and flight tracking developer Rannoch Corporation has taken over ERA, the Pardubice-based company that developed Vera. The deal took place in late October, but the daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported it Nov. 11.

23.11.2006

"The ERA facilities are truly world-class," said Rannoch President Dave Ellison in an official statement. "We realize the potential of the combined teams to offer the most comprehensive and technically advanced solutions." Defense Ministry representatives and east Bohemian regional officials were unaware of the development.

ERA Vice Chairman Milan Bernard confirmed the transaction, adding that ERA's management first wanted to notify the company's shareholders. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Bernard said that they would be announced later this month. Defense Ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek said the takeover was "a strictly private matter," and the government would not interfere in it.

ERA's Multilateration Surveillance System (MSS) is the best-selling technology around the globe for tracking civilian airplanes, and also the most advanced and proven wide-range multi-altitude radar. The company's main asset, however, is the radar system Vera.

Traditional radar sends a signal that bounces off a target, letting the radar operators know that something is there. Vera uses "passive location," a unique way of identifying a target without sending out that signal. The technology allows the radar system to be unidentifiable and thus unjammable. Vera can simultaneously monitor up to 200 aircraft, and it is able to precisely determine their distance and altitude.

The ERA company has received orders for Vera from many countries, including Pakistan, China, Malaysia and Egypt. The U.S. government has repeatedly expressed concern about the Czech radar being sold to countries it deems unfriendly. As a result, ERA had to give up a planned transaction with China in 2004, after the Czech Defense Ministry banned the deal. So far, Vera radar has been sold to the United States and Estonia, and leased to Pakistan. Vera is expected to become a key tool in NATO's new air control system, according to Marshall Billingsley, NATO's investment department director.