Eighty-one years ago, on 27th March of 1939, the first radar system in Malta was installed at Dingli Cliffs by the British. Today, the Dingli Radar characterises one of the major landmarks of Dingli Cliffs.
The first radar was called the Air Ministry Experiment Station (AMES) No.241 and in June 1940, it was joined by AMES No. 242 adjacent to each other. By mid July-1941 three other radars were installed around the Maltese Islands, one of which No. 504 AMES was also installed at Dingli Cliffs. This system was part of a triangulation arrangement, connecting Dingli Cliffs to Fort Tas-Silġ (Marsaxlokk) and Fort Madliena (Swieqi). Obtained information by the stations was passed to the filter room at Lascaris War Room in Valletta, then forwarded to plotters who placed counters on a map. RAF fighters would then have been able to intercept enemy formations.
Whilst the radars can usually plot medium-to-low flying aircraft, the first radar’s purpose was to plot high flying aircraft in the vicinity of Dingli Cliffs. When the Siege of Malta, the fight for control of Malta as a strategically important island of the British crown, commenced on 11th June 1940, the first 10 Italian aircrafts were seen approaching Malta on the Radar scan at Dingli.
An underground complex was excavated in the 1941 to house the equipment of the radar, which was used by the British in the Second World War. It consisted of the Transmitter Room with landline disc-cases to communicate with the War Rooms, the Operations Control Room where received information from the Radar Receiver was plotted onto a table map and the Generator Room. A small Wireless Telegraphy Cabin was even designed to be used in case a break down in the landlines developed. As the war progresses, this was used to communicate with the airborne Wireless operators. The Maltese took charge of the Air Traffic Systems from the British RAF in 1979, when the last British forces left Malta. The construction of today’s radar, or as is mostly known by locals “golf ball” dates back to the 1980s. Nowadays, the Technical Station of Malta Air Traffic Services Ltd. caters for all the technical needs of the Radar. It handles all air traffic passing through Malta’s Flight Information Region, ranging from Tunisia to Crete.