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Advanced Tower Topics — Limited Radar Identification Familiarization Last updated: 2019-12-14

In limited circumstances certain tower facilities are able to provide radar services.  Here at the LAARTCC the only tower authorized to provide limited radar services is LAX TWR and only while aircraft are operating on the Mini Route.  Controllers wishing to simulate radar services must familiarize themselves with radar identification procedures below prior to providing radar services to pilots on the mini route.  This section is optional and not required to be certified on LAX TWR or Major Tower. 

The below will cover portions of radar identification.  It is fully covered in the approach section of the STM.   (Most of the below was copied from Radar Identification from the Approach section of the STM)

1. What is radar identification?

According to the pilot and controller glossary, radar identification is “the process of ascertaining that an observed radar target is the radar return from a particular aircraft.” In other words, radar identification is confirmation that an observed target is truly the desired aircraft (or an aircraft at all).

2. Identification status

You must inform an aircraft upon initial radar contact.


(ID), RADAR CONTACT (position if required *see below)

You must also inform them when you lose radar contact.



{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 5-3-7}

Also inform aircraft when you are no longer providing radar services.



{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 5-1-13}

3. Methods of radar identification

In total, there are six methods for radar identification in the terminal environment (three primary methods and three secondary methods). In order to understand the different methods, we must distinguish between the two different types of targets. A primary target is a radar target with no additional information, (i.e. a radar return or a “blip”). A secondary target is derived from information sent by a transponder. It is a radar return with other information such as altitude.

A handoff is a transfer of radar contact and radio communications. In the case of an automated handoff (one received via the radar system), there has been no lapse in radar identification, so there is no need to radar identify that aircraft again.

3.1 Primary identification methods

b) Position correlation

You may radar identify a target whose position (with respect to a fix or visual reporting point) corresponds to a direct position report from that aircraft.


N123: “LA TWR, Cessna one two three, one mile south of the Hawthorne Blvd - 405 intersection, two thousand five hundred."

SAN_APP: “Cessna one two three, LA TWR radar contact.”

{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 5-3-2b}

c) Identifying turns

You may identify a target that you observe making an identifying turn (30 degrees or greater) provided that:

1. A pilot position report is received which assures you that the aircraft is within radar coverage and within your sector.

2. Only one aircraft is observed making these turns.

3. For aircraft operating in accordance with an IFR clearance, you either issue a heading away from an area which will require an increased minimum IFR altitude or have the aircraft climb to the highest minimum altitude in your sector before you issue a heading.


N123: “Socal approach, Cessna one two three, one zero miles northwest of the Julain VOR, niner thousand five hundred.”

You look at your radar display and you see two targets about 10 miles northwest of JLI, but you are uncertain about which one gave the position report.

SAN_APP: “Cessna 123, Las Vegas approach, turn right 30 degrees for radar identification”

You observe one of them turning while the other remains on its course.

SAN_APP: “Cessna one two three, radar contact, eight miles morthwest of the Julian VOR”

{Reference: FAAO 711.0.65 5-3-2c}

3.2 Secondary radar identification methods

a) Observe an aircraft activate the IDENT feature on their transponder.

You may request that an aircraft IDENT, which involves pushing a button on their transponder. If you then observe their data block flash, you can radar identify them.




N123: “Socal approach, Cessna one two three, niner thousand five hundred.”

You have not received a position report and thus may not use it to identify the target, you have to use another method such as asking them to ident.

SAN_APP:“Cessna one two three, Socal approach, ident.”

You observe the data block flash.

SAN_APP: “Cessna one two three, radar contact, one zero miles northwest of the Julian VOR.”

{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 5-3-3a}

b) Aircraft changes to a discrete code.

You may identify an aircraft to which you have assigned a discrete code if you observe their data block change.


SQUAWK (code)


N123: “Socal approach, Cessna one two three, niner thousand five hundred.”

SAN_APP: “Cessna 123, Socal approach, squawk five seven two four.”

You observe the data block change.

SAN_APP: “Cessna one two three, radar contact, one zero miles northwest of the Julian VOR.”

{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 5-3-3b}

c) Observe a target lose its information after being asked to squawk standby.

If you request that an aircraft squawk standby, observe its data block lose its information, ask them to squawk normal, and observe its data block regain its information, you may identify it.



followed by



N123: “Socal approach, Cessna one two three, niner thousand five hundred.”

You have more than one secondary target in your sector but are not sure which one is the Cessna.

SAN_APP: “Cessna one two three, Socal Approach, squawk standby.”

You observe one of the targets lose its information.

SAN_APP: “Cessna one two three, squawk normal.”

You observe the information reappear.

SAN_APP: “Cessna one two three, radar contact, one zero miles northwest of the Julian VOR.”

“{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 5-3-3c}”

4.Position information

You may have noticed that the controller advised the pilot of his position when he identified him. If you radar identify a target by any of the above secondary methods or by identifying turns, you must always state the position of the target in respect to a navaid or airport. 

“{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 5-3-6}”

Los Angeles Mini Route

As noted above in order to simulate limited radar services for aircraft on the Mini Route, a basic understanding of radar identification is required. 

In general at LAX, aircraft transiting the LA Bravo Airspace via the Mini Route will be radar identified by LA TWR prior to entering the LA Bravo airspace and prior to providing the clearance through the Bravo.  There are specific VFR reporting points that pilots are encouraged to use when reporting in to LAX TWR that are slightly outside the LAX Bravo Airspace both north and south.  Radar services should only include radar seperation from other traffic and generally should not include any other type of radar services.  When you radar identify an aircraft, you shoud start track on the target.  As soon as the aircraft exits the LA Bravo airspace, radar services should be terminated.