RAF Chinook Helicopter Airlifts Massive New Radar Onto The Top Of Gibraltar Rock

Chinook Gibraltar
The incredible scene of the RAF Chinook at work at the top of the Gibraltar rock. (All images: DM Parody www.dotcom.gi/photos)

Take a look at these amazing shots of a Chinook helicopter delivering a massive new radar to the top of the Rock.

On Mar. 2, 2022, a RAF Chinook helicopter carried out a pretty peculiar mission when it delivered a new radar to the top of the Gibraltar rock. The ATC radar of RAF Gibraltar airfield, that serves also as the commercial airport of the British Overseas Territory, is located at the top of the iconic rock. The radar needed to be replaced, a task that could not be completed by road, as the roads to the top of the rock are too narrow for ground transportation.

For this reason, a RAF Chinook helicopter (ZA680) was flown from the UK via Portugal and undertook the lift of the massive radar, a 11.8 meter structure weighting over 8,000 kg, to the summit, site of the former Rock Gun Battery.

The Chinook helicopter ZA680.

The Aviationist‘s contributor David Parody took the stunning photos of the Chinook helicopter at work during the radar lift operation at the summit of the Rock.

According to Aquila Air Traffic Management Services that delivered the new radar to serve RAF Gibraltar, the new radar was transported as an underslung load by the Chinook in four parts. The radar’s rotational turning gear, two large antennae and the “horn” – the transmit and receive section of the antenna – were each lifted in four separate journeys. Also flown to the top of the Rock was a new navigational beacon.

The iconic rock.

A temporary helicopter landing platform was built at Rock Gun Battery especially for the operation. The platform allowed the helicopter to land the loads above the rough and protected ground of the nature reserve, that is known for the apes that populate the Rock and are a major tourist attraction.

Helicopter was the only means to transport the 11.8 metre tall structure, weighing over 8,000 kg to the summit.

The lift was originally scheduled for Nov. 21, 2021, but the operation had to be postponed due to bad weather and rescheduled.

The new radar was transported as an underslung load by the Chinook in four parts.

The upgrade to RAF Gibraltar’s Air Traffic Management system is part of an MOD wide 1.5 billion GBP investment in to air traffic management systems, known as Programme Marshall. The programme includes a 400 million GBP investment in advanced surveillance radars and a wide range of sophisticated equipment such as tower systems, new surveillance and navigation aids and radios, with the purpose to ensure increased reliability for air traffic management, improved safety and estimated savings of 317 million GBP for the MOD over the course of the 22-year partnership with Aquila to support the new equipment.

The radar’s rotational turning gear, two large antennae and the “horn” – the transmit and receive section of the antenna – were each lifted in four separate journeys.
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.