Government orders shutdown of British radar in Tierra del Fuego

The radar in the town of Tolhuin belongs to Anglo-American company LeoLabs

Defense Minister Jorge Taiana. Source: Defense Ministry

The Defense Ministry has issued a technical report and decided to shut down the operations of a radar in Tierra del Fuego province owned by the U.S. and British company LeoLabs. 

The 22-page document shuts down the sensor’s operations on the grounds that it puts Argentina’s sovereign interests at risk, given the dispute with the United Kingdom over the Malvinas archipelago. 

The report’s results were issued alongside a note from Defense Minister Jorge Taiana to Chief of Staff Agustín Rossi, explaining why operations for LeoLabs Argentina’s radar in the town of Tolhuin were definitely canceled.

The radar is referred to by LeoLabs as the Argentina Space Radar, or AGSR.

“From a military geostrategic perspective, the radar sensors used at AGSR have a dual capacity: they can provide early warning and lower orbit Space Situational Awareness over Argentina. This means they can monitor both civilian and military Argentine satellite activity (which uses low orbit satellite projects), from our own national territory,” the report read. 

“It can also intercept data, communications, and observe ground and sea targets or spot aircrafts. The operation band stated by the company matches the operation band of Argentine satellites’ ground stations of data broadcast and reception in the S band and reception on the X and K bands.”

The report was prepared by departments specialized in radar technology and sensors, under the National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE, by its Spanish acronym) and the Armed Forces Joint Staff (EMCO), the National Direction of Defense Materials Oversight, the Defense Ministry’s National Direction of Strategic Military Intelligence and state satellite company INVAP, which has extensive experience given its long-range military radar production. 

Other fragments of the report state that “we must consider the geopolitical implications of the aforementioned installment and start-up by a company like LeoLabs Argentina, which has a UK legal address, considering the dual nature of the data obtained in its facilities, especially since the UK is illegally occupying the Malvinas Islands, which are part of our national territory.”   

“Cancellation and definitive suspension”

Minister Taiana concludes by shutting down the enterprise with a blunt paragraph: “the Defense Ministry requests the cancellation and definitive suspension of the installment and start-up processes of LeoLabs Argentina S.R.L.’s AGSR Station in the town of Tokhuin, as it violates national security and is incompatible with National Defense Policy Directive – Decree 457/2021.” 

The Directive is the top-level document that establishes the military’s mission, and states “[…] the persistent illegitimate and illegal military presence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and their corresponding sea and insular areas forces us to take precautions by planning proper capacities, deployment and organizations by our Defense system.”   

For the same reasons, it also requests that LeoLabs Argentina is stripped of its authorization to operate, canceling Disposition #8/22 of the Undersecretariat of Telecommunications and Connectivity. 

Before this “definitive cancellation” by the Defense Ministry, the project had been suspended because of a previous recommendation by Taiana. Alongside International Affairs secretary Francisco Cafiero, Taiana had found evidence that the LeoLabs company was of British origin. 

The radar conflict surfaced over a month ago, when Taiana and opposition legislators warned that LeoLabs’ activity could compromise the country’s sovereign interests. 

“I fully share Minister Jorge Taiana’s decision to definitively cancel it,” said Pablo Blanco, a senator for Tierra del Fuego with opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio.  

“The Tierra del Fuego government owes the country an explanation. It’s inadmissible that the same people who approved LeoLabs’ legal status in Tierra del Fuego and those who provided them with energy to start operating in test mode are now playing dumb or claiming they didn’t know anything.” 

“Even worse: they are demanding explanations from the national government,” added the senator. 

Editorial disclaimer

Although the UK refers to the territory as the “Falklands Islands,” Argentina strongly contests this name. The Buenos Aires Herald refers to the islands as the Malvinas Islands.

Originally published in / Translated by Agustín Mango


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