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In the framework of the preparation of the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission, several field experiments are required so as to address specific modeling issues. The goal is to improve current models and to test retrieval algorithms. However, adequate ground instrumentation is scarce and not readily available "off the shelf". In this context, a high-accuracy L-band radiometer was required for a specific long-term campaign for the preparation of the SMOS mission. For this purpose, a dual-polarized radiometer was designed and built to check algorithms for surface soil moisture retrieval from multiangular dual-polarized brightness temperatures. This radiometer has been tested in the field for 20 months and is operational since end of January 2003. The aim of this paper is to give details of the system architecture, calibration procedures, together with the performances obtained and some preliminary results.