|New Radar System Makes Foul Weather Landings Safer, Easier |
New Radar System Makes Foul Weather Landings Safer, Easier
Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts -- (AFPN) January 12, 2001 -- When the Air Force T-43 jet carrying then-U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and 34 others crashed into a Croatian mountainside in 1996, the pilot was trying to land in foul weather. The lack of an adequate air traffic control radar system made such a landing too difficult.
The new mobile Ground Control Approach system, referred to as GCA-2000, should eliminate such problems. Procured by the Electronic Systems Center here and developed by the Gilfillan Division of ITT Industries, the system was recently delivered to the Air Mobility Command.
"This mobile radar system provides our Air Force and our allies the ability to operate wherever we need to deploy and in virtually any weather," said Col. Bud Vazquez, global air traffic operations and mobility command and control systems program office director, whose staff managed the project. "Missions will be accomplished, and accomplished much more safely, as a result of this development."
The primary benefit is that it can be deployed easily and set up rapidly.
"That's definitely the niche this system has," said Chief Master Sgt. Scott Caldwell, the ESC program manager. "It can be shipped on a single C-130 (Hercules), and it can be set up by a small crew in less than three hours."
This permits air operations at any airfield that has serviceable runways, even if the facility does not have sophisticated fixed air traffic control radar in place and even if the field is frequently affected by inclement weather, Caldwell said.
"(A) key improvement is no special equipment is required on the planes," said Maj. Justin Seiferth, chief of the program office's navigation and landing systems division. "Just about any kind of a plane will be able to land, as long as they have a radio.
"Another great asset is the fact that it generates its own power, so it's not dependent on the power capabilities of the facility," Seiferth said.
What is unique about the GCA-2000, according to Caldwell, is the system is actually three radars in one. It's a mobile airport surveillance radar, which provides bearing and range information to controllers, and it's a secondary surveillance radar, which overlays flight code and altitude data on the controllers screen.
Additionally, the GCA-2000 is a precision approach radar, which provides split-screen information to the controller, according to Caldwell. The bearing and range are displayed on one half of the screen, elevation and range on the other. This enables the controller to give precise approach information to the pilot, allowing him to land safely when foul weather has reduced visibility.
Both the airport surveillance radar and the precision approach radar are Doppler radars, which detects weather systems and allow controllers to track their proximity to the approaching aircraft, Caldwell said. The displays also feature color-coded precipitation intensity displays, similar to what is shown on television weather forecasts.
Another key GCA-2000 feature is it allows operators to look at multiple runways with the same assets. According to Caldwell, the system can automatically align itself to the selected runway in less than a minute, an advantage earlier systems could not provide.
(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)