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Air Traffic Control Market Overview: Mid-East / Northern Africa Regions

23 Apr 2018 by: ATC Market Analysis, LLC

As described in a recent Arab Civil Aviation Commission (ACAC) sponsored study, Mid-East and Northern Africa air traffic management (ATM) systems are facing serious challenges in both their flexibility and capacity. 

The study, conducted by Airbus Middle East and Airbus ProSky, addressed regional airspace configuration and ATM operations in each of the nineteen ACAC member states of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  Results of the study were presented at the ICAO Middle East Air Navigation Planning and Implementation Regional Group meeting held in Kuwait in February 2017.

The Mid-East region has the world’s largest air traffic growth rate with projections for the high rate to continue.  Last year Dubai International Airport was ranked the world’s busiest for International passengers.  Another example is Ethiopia which announced traffic growth in 2014 at the capital's Addis Ababa Bole International Airport of 22 percent per year causing discussions addressing the need to build a new international airport.

The continued air traffic growth, and its resulting imbalances between available ATC capacity and demand, has presented challenges at both regional and national levels.  Among others, these challenges include limitations in airspace access and resulting excessive flight delays.

Interdependency of regional air traffic flow has necessitated a coordinated response by the national authorities in the Mid-East and Northern Africa regions.  These responses are further challenged by the regional economic and political impacts related to the evolving situation in Iraq, Libya, Qatar, Syria, and Yemen.

Procedural Initiatives

Similar to the ACAC sponsored study, UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) sponsored an earlier project with Airbus ProSky addressing UAE airspace operations.  Other related activities have included GCAA Initiatives with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman) and the UAE Airspace Restructuring Project (ARP) implemented by Dubai Air Navigation Services (DANS) and Northern Emirates.

Also discussed is a proposed Mid-East Air Traffic Flow Management system with a Central Command and Control Unit (CCC) with Traffic Management Units (TMU) which would be located at all major Area Control Center (ACC) and Approach Units (APP) in the region.

Other regional discussions have included the Mediterranean Transport Forum agreement (2010) to work towards a Euro-Mediterranean Common Aviation Area (EMCAA) and more coordination activities with Eurocontrol.  The Eurocontrol related activities have included both regional and bi-lateral agreements with individual countries such as Spain’s ENAIRE agreement between Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Algeria.

Recent Northern Africa developments include Somalia again providing control of their airspace following 27 years of control provided by ICAO in Kenya.  And another major change is the growth of South Sudan’s air traffic control infrastructure with South Sudan now providing limited airspace control over their country with continuing assistance from Sudan.

Infrastructure Initiatives

Major projects continue including Saudi Arabia’s upgrades of air traffic control (ATC) centers with Indra and Algeria upgrading ATC centers and new ATC radars from Indra (Spain).  Other national projects include new Thales ATC radars for Iran, Egyptian upgrade projects with Thales (France) and with Azimut / Lianozovo (Russia), and the Morocco ATC upgrade projects with Finmeccanica (Italy) and Indra.

Additionally, recent and planned major new airport construction projects in the Mid-East region include those in Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. 

Northern Africa region projects include those in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Sudan.  Airports in Libya and in Somalia, which had been closed due to local conditions, have been re-opened.

Space-Based Navigation

The European EGNOS Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS), augmented with GPS (US) and Galileo (European) global navigation satellite systems, is being expanded in conjunction with the EuroMed Countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia).

Space-Based Surveillance

Deployment of space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology in Spanish airspace in both the European and Canary Islands environment is being evaluated by Spanish ANSP ENAIRE.  Aireon (US) is working with ENAIR in evaluating application of this capability for Flight Information Regions (FIRs) to the north and west of the Northern Africa countries.

To the south of the Northern Africa countries, space-based ADS-B is being developed in the six FIRs controlled by the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA).  Under the agreement with Aireon, ASECNA expects to introduce a continuous layer of surveillance which augments the existing ATC infrastructure of their eighteen-member States.  

Remote ATC Towers

Dubai Air Navigation Services (DANS) announced their interest in developing remote aerodrome control service (RACS).  The Remote Tower concept enables Air Traffic Control services (ATS) and Aerodrome Flight Information Services (AFIS) to be provided at aerodromes where such services are either currently unavailable, or where it is difficult or too expensive to implement and staff a conventional manned facility. The RCAS is expected to be the first civil application of its kind in the Middle East.

Remote Tower operations are being explored by Dubai Air Navigation Services and HungaroControl at Dubai International and Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central.  HungaroControl, the air navigation service provider of Hungary, is applying its remote tower experience with arrival and departure ATC independent from the airport environment as developed at the Budapest Airport.


Although ATC related challenges continue in the Mid-East and Northern Africa regions, significant progress is being made at both the regional and nation levels.  Newer technology related to space-based navigation and surveillance, and the implementation of remote ATC towers, offer a future vision of enhanced capacity with improvements in both efficiency and cost reduction.

NOTE: Recent ATC Market Analysis reports on Air Traffic Control Programs in the Mid-East and in Northern Africa Region identified the countries included in the market overview.  Northern Africa addresses those countries that geographically are generally north of members of the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA).

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