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MOD 'fesses up to car-molesting radar

Norfolk mystery solved

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The MOD has finally come clean about the car-molesting radar installation in Norfolk which made merry with passing motorists' electronics, the Evening Standard reports.

Back in February, we reported that Trimingham Radar Station, on the coast near Cromer, was apparently provoking a range of alarming symptoms, including "engine and light failures and wildly fluctuating speedometers". Local garage owner Neil Crayford - a former RAF radar operator - said around 30 people had reported problems, and added he himself had been affected when "one night his own car's headlights and dashboard cut out for a few seconds as he drove past the dome in convoy with a colleague, who suffered the same fate".

Mum of two Kerrie Maydew, 39, told the Daily Mail how her Nissan Almera had been targeted while on the school run when she "saw her dashboard instruments die". By the time she reached the local garage, "the electric windows and indicators had also failed". She then had to shell out £300 for a new main fuse box, and admitted she was "frightened to turn off the ignition in case the car packed in all together".

At the time, an MOD spokeswoman said: "We are aware of claims that the remote radar head may be interfering with car immobilisers and we are investigating. There are other users outside the military that operate on the same frequency as the radar, but there is a possibility we could be causing some problems with cars."

And so it turned out to be. A probe into the Type 93 radar showed it was "'out of alignment" for three months from November 2005. Specifically, "unserviceable phase shifters and drop in wave guide air pressure" were fingered at the cause. Defence expert Jonathan Levy explained to the Standard: "The phase shifters control the frequency of the radar. When this changed it could have moved the frequency close to the immobilisers of cars. The effect would be like disrupting a circuit by putting a magnet near it.

"The wave guide air pressure refers to the focus of the signal going out. Most people know this as the beam sweeping round on a radar screen. Normally the radar would cover everything just over the horizon but it could have been hitting objects on the ground as well."

The MoD confirmed it would "now consider outstanding compensation claims", although locals aren't certain their electronic woes are behind them. Neil Crayford said: "We have had a Nissan Terrano in here three or four times in the past week with the same sort of problems - dials going haywire and blacking out, which we had to re-set.

"It was fairly obvious that something was wrong with the radar first time around. But it's very odd it is happening again when they say it has all been cleared up."

An MOD spokesman asserted: "There is no known recurrence of the problems experienced last year." ®

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