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Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) programme rolling out across Africa

An RMAC system.Nearly a dozen African countries are installing maritime domain awareness systems as part of the continent-wide Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) programme.

The RMAC programme, authorized under section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006, permits the US Department of Defense to expend US funds in support of training and equipping foreign militaries to undertake counter terrorism and stability operations. Initial funding was provided through the Office for the Secretary of Defence (OSD) and later through Foreign Military Sales and Foreign Military Financing in an effort to improve maritime security and reduce piracy in Africa.

Particular focus was placed on West and Central African coastal nations to become self-sufficient in maritime safety and security and able to stop illegal activities, protect natural resources, and foster safety at sea, leading to greater prosperity and stability in the region. The RMAC system is integrated into the Maritime Safety and Security Information System, a global database to track ships all over the world.

The RMAC system receives, integrates, displays, records and distributes data from sensors and systems including maritime and air surveillance radars, GPS, Automatic Identification System (AIS), cameras and automated dependent surveillance system-broadcast (ADS-B). Other sensors can include UAVs, satellite tracking data etc.

US company Ausley provides the SureTrak command and control systems for the RMAC programme and is a prime integrator of the government off-the-shelf (GOTS) RMAC technology. Ausley has successfully installed the system within the US military – RMAC’s predecessor was developed for the US Navy/Coast Guard as a vessel traffic management system in the 1990s.

RMAC was established in 2007, resulting in installation taking place in Nigeria, Djibouti and Kenya. Nigeria’s RMAC system was installed by October 2009 and includes 13 sites (six radar, five headquarters, one liquid natural gas plant and one vessel). Through its integral radar, camera and AIS, Nigeria’s RMAC provides round-the–clock surveillance of the maritime environment up to 35 nautical miles from the coast. Nigeria recently acquired the Falcon Technologies Falcon Eye mass surveillance system to monitor its territorial waters.

From 2015 new installations began in Senegal, Benin, Togo, Gabon and Tanzania. A Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre (MTISC) was established in Ghana in 2015. Cote d’Ivoire is awaiting installation and Sierra Leone is pending. Angola and Cameroon are under consideration for the system, according to Ausley.

Sao Tome and Principe also has the RMAC system, which it acquired as part of the establishment of its Coast Guard, with four radar sites and one headquarters as well as AIS receivers, day/night cameras and satellite communications links. Before 2005 the island nation had no coast guard but by 2008 its 85 strong coast guard was able to conduct its first rescue-at-sea exercise using the RMAC system.

Djibouti has 16 RMAC sites (six radar, eight camera-only sites, one HQ and one US Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa site). The RMAC system includes remote security cameras, six sensor and communication towers with broadband microwave links to provide data connectivity throughout the entire country, a harbour security video surveillance system and renewable electrical power systems at six sites around the country.

Kenya has five sites (four radar, one HQ); Gabon has one radar site and one HQ, Senegal has three radar sites and one HQ, Benin has two radar sites and one HQ; and Togo has one radar site.

At the moment RMAC is being installed in Tunisia at 13 different sites. PAE (formerly Computer Sciences Corporation) is the prime contractor and on 12 December said it will deliver key command, control, communications, and surveillance (C3/S) capabilities to the Tunisian Navy.

"PAE will survey, design, install, and test the capability as well as provide the training and transition to the host nation as part of the contract," said Kenneth Myers, president of PAE's National Security Solutions business unit. "This program will assist a key U.S. ally in securing its border and maintaining peace and stability in the region."

The Tunisia project allows for multiple maritime sensors to be integrated into a common operating picture for the Tunisian Navy. This new capability will fully integrate and correlate multiple data source acquisition and display to provide increased maritime domain awareness and allow for better tracking of small and large vessels. With this solution, the Tunisian Navy will be able to more effectively track and respond to immediate maritime threats or incidents with a high level of confidence and accuracy.

Although designed for maritime domain awareness, RMAC can also be used for airspace monitoring, transportation safety and homeland security.

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