Naval Observatories | The National Guard’s early warning at sea and the promises never realized
Andreas Pogiatzi
Published on 27/08/2023 at 13:29

*Andreas Pogiatzi

Like all maritime nations, Cyprus is “forced” to have full operational insight and be constantly aware of any maritime activities taking place in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The surveillance of these borders contributes to improved decision-making, since it provides early warning of upcoming threats, monitoring of maritime traffic, detection of suspicious vessels, illegal immigrants and ships carrying out illegal activities.

Maritime surveillance also assists in border control, the protection and safety of the marine environment and fisheries, and is instrumental in search and rescue (SAR) operations. This is rendered essential in the modern geopolitical environment due to international terrorism, asymmetric threats, illegal arms trafficking, drug trafficking, piracy and generally all the threatening scenarios that a maritime nation may be called upon to encounter.

A well-known example of how the means of surveillance contribute to the work of the Navy is that of Hezbollah, which, using coastal radars, successfully attacked on July 14, 2006 the Israeli corvette INS HANIT with a guided missile (probably the Chinese C-701) at a distance of 16 km off Lebanon.

The first Naval Observatories in Cyprus

Despite its relatively brief ‘maritime tradition’, the Republic of Cyprus had long realized the need to surveille its maritime borders. As early as in 1964, the Republic of Cyprus acknowledged the existing threat of a Turkish invasion due to the intercommunal conflicts that broke out between December 1963 – August 1964.

The then newly-established National Guard had the need to monitor the northern sea zone, so that it would be able to know and – subsequently prevent – arms shipments from Turkey to any Turkish-Cypriot enclaves created. There was also the need for early warning of any activities of the Turkish Navy that would lead to an invasion / landing in Cyprus.

So on June 26 and July 6, 1964, Cyprus was secretly equipped with four mobile radar stations, AA No 4 Mk 6/2 of Canadian origin, by the then Hellenic Royal Navy. Those radars were mounted inside vehicles that could be towed and their interior space was shaped like a small operations chamber. According to their specifications, these radars were capable of tracking surface targets at distances of 50 nautical miles.

At the same time, the National Guard placed 4 four Early Warning Stations (EWS) in 4 crucial positions: in Rizokarpaso Karpasia (EWS A), Ayia Napa Famagusta (EWS B), Polemidia Limassol (EWS C) and Livera Kormakiti (EWS D).

The arrangement of the Early Warning Stations of the Naval Command until 1974 

As for EWS A, it played a very important role in the Turkish invasion in 1974 and in monitoring the movements of the Turkish landing fleet on July 19, providing a full picture of the situation to the Greek Command in Athens and the General Staff of the National Guard about Ankara’s intentions. After the Turkish invasion, new EWSs were created in Paphos and Latsi.

The next milestone for the Cyprus Maritime Surveillance took place in 1978, when the new mobile radars of the British company Decca (Bridgemaster-type) were received. These radars initially reinforced the existing ones, which were eventually replaced in new locations – Kissonerga and Pomos – once the AA No 4 Mk 6/2 was withdrawn. Bridgemaster radars used a color screen (pixel – based), something really innovative for the time.

Also read: Mapping of Occupation Forces | The Offensive Positions, the Armaments and the Turkish Claims in Cyprus – INTERACTIVE MAP and Photos

The maritime surveillance of Cyprus in the modern era

The discovery of deposits of natural resources in the Cypriot seas, the installation of strong Turkish forces in the occupied territories of the Republic, but also the continuous Turkish naval presence in the Cypriot EEZ and FIR have forced Cyprus to vertically upgrade its capabilities in maritime surveillance.

To carry out this mission, the Naval Command assigned it in 2001 to the newly-established Coastal Surveillance Command (CSC), which was responsible for performing search, detection, recognition and surveillance missions. The Naval Observatories of Pomos, Lara, Kavo Aspro, Kremni and Agia Napa also joined the CSC Service.

The Naval Observatories of the National Guard, according to open sources, are equipped with an advanced 3rd-generation Coastal Support Radar (ACSR), ELTA EL/M 2226-type of Israeli Aerospace Industries.

The Advanced Coastal Support Radar (ACSR), ELTA EL/M 2226 with the control station

It is a state-of-the-art radar, optimized to detect all types of surface targets even under extremely adverse weather conditions.

The solid-state digital radar allows the antenna to be tilted upwards, which guarantees higher scanning capabilities and high-quality signal transmission to the receiver.

©️ IAI

The radar features continuous, automatic target detection and tracking, providing a reliable depiction of the tactical situation. Its operation is very simple and has a very low workload for the operator. The said Coastal Surveillance and VTS (Vessel Traffic Services) system can be provided in either fixed or mobile configurations.


  • Performance: X-band linear frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW)
  • Radiated Power: 5W or 50W (factory configuration)
  • Power Consumption: 4 kVA (kilo-volt-ampere)
  • Azimuth Beam Width: < 1.5°
  • Elevation Beam Width: < 2.6°
  • Detection Range (SS 3): For rubber boats: >20 km – For patrol boats: >60 km – For ships: Up to the horizon (depending on installation point)

It is capable of operating 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and simultaneously tracking and detecting more than 200 surface targets.

The ELTA EL/M 2226 is an ideal system for the prevention of drug trafficking and illegal immigration, also having civilian applications with maritime traffic control as the main VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) radar.

It provides a background map on the color screen and MS Windows graphical interface. The system is network-centric and allows simple network control of multiple radars through a remote Command and Control Center (C2).

Snapshot from the visit of the former Chief of National Guard, Lieutenant General Ilias Leontaris, to a Navy Observatory. The Advanced Coastal Support Radar (ACSR), ELTA EL/M 2226, appears in the background ©National Guard

All 5 Naval Observatories, according to Petros Savvidis (PhD) and his article “COASTAL SURVEILLANCE COMMAND THE EYES OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS AT SEA“, are also equipped with a mobile Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system from Elisra (a subsidiary of ELBIT). According to the article published at the National Guard’s magazine, the ESM system is capable of passively monitoring and recording active electromagnetic radiation emissions from various surface target systems, with a range of 72 nautical miles.

ESM by Elisra ©️ Petros Savvidis (PhD)”COASTAL SURVEILLANCE COMMAND THE EYES OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS AT SEA”  – National Guard and History

The information collected and redistributed by the electronic support system (ESM) provides situational awareness information that can range from the detection of foreign signals to the detection of enemy and friendly forces (Friend-or-Foe) to locations, formations, tactics, etc.

Also read: Elbit Systems | Naval Electronic Warfare countermeasure system DESEAVER for the IDF vessels

It also has the ability to store every radar trace it detects. Further, it has a high survivability since it does not emit electromagnetic energy (passive type) and thus cannot be detected by enemy radars.

Elisra Electronic Support Measures (ESM) Mobile System target detection range from Pomos Naval Observatory 

The Naval Observatories of the Naval Command, alongside the electro-optical coastal surveillance system of the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC), complete the operational maritime image. In particular, the JRCC has:

  • Long-range thermal and day/night camera systems in selected parts of Cyprus
  • Mobile surveillance units on 4×4 vehicles
  • Vehicle which also features a Radar system (additional armament)
  • 2 UAVs with day and night E/O set

The image, taken in real time, is transferred through telecommunication circuits to the Control Centers at JRCC, the “ZINON” Coordinating Center and other government agencies.

Also read: Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) | Establishment of educational Research and Rescue Center and Alternative Operations Center

The promises never realized

The decisive moves of the Republic of Cyprus to delimit its EEZ with neighboring states in the past decade has made Ankara nervous, resulting in an increase of illegal naval activities in the region. In addition to maritime surveillance, however, the Republic of Cyprus, as has already been pointed out, should proceed with effective measures to control its maritime space.

This can only be achieved by purchasing modern naval and air assets, equipped with advanced combat systems and a wide operational range. Cyprus could acquire a small – yet capable – navy fleet consisting of armed Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) or other types of vessels (e.g.Fast Attack Crafts), while upgrading the Naval Base, Evangelos Florakis, so larger ships can be docked.

The political leadership has over time sidelined the equipment and upgrading of the Navy and despite promises, no other Sa’ar 62 (or other type) of OPVs has been purchased. Furthermore, the expansion of the Naval Base has shown only limited progress since 2017!

The only noteworthy supply is the acquisition of the new Exocet MM40 Block 3c anti-ship missiles, with a maximum range of 200 km.

Snapshot from the interview with the former Navy Commander, Captain Dimitris Masouras

It is worth noting that DEFENCE ReDEFiNED had an extensive briefing on the Naval Command of the National Guard, which also entailed the Naval Observatories, as part of our tribute (see related video at the end of the article) to the 10-year anniversary of the explosion in Mari (in Greek). 




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