Diplomatic navigation: The development of marine radar in Spain

Francisco Saez de Adana, who recently completed a research internship at the Museum, has been looking into the post-war politics surrounding Spain’s attempts to acquire marine radar. 

Maritime radar technology began to be developed in Spain after the Second World War, when the Spanish government hired a number of German engineers to work at its radiofrequency institute. Although they had been part of Nazi efforts to develop radar, the Spanish government had no choice but to hire German engineers, as poor diplomatic relations between Britain and Spain hampered the sharing of expertise between these two countries. Spanish officials were keen to acquire British radar equipment as it was regarded as the most advanced technology at the time. They overcame the diplomatic barriers by importing maritime radar technology from the British company Marconi through its Spanish subsidiary, Marconi Española, although the equipment was intended for commercial rather than military vessels. 
 
 
However, the British government soon found out from France that some of the equipment was being installed in naval vessels, even though the supply of military equipment from other countries was officially prohibited due to the support Spain had given to the Axis countries during the Second World War. The British government therefore began discussions with Marconi to stop the trade, although some equipment had already been sold to Spain. 
 
 
The Spanish government attempted to maintain the supply of radars from Britain, but growing pressure from the British government finally ended it. The impossibility of getting radars from other countries for the same reasons led to the need to develop Spanish-made systems and was the impetus for hiring German engineers. Once they began working in Spain, however, these engineers began to be influenced by the more advanced Allied radar technology, beginning with the equipment that had been previously sold to Spain.
 
For more information about a surviving Spanish radar prototype, see this website (in Spanish):