JPALS Guides An F/A-18A Hornet To First Automatic Landing
(Source : Raytheon Co. ; issued Aug. 30, 2000)


Raytheon Company completed a major milestone last month during shore-based flight trials of its Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) technology demonstrator. The flight trials, conducted by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at NAS Patuxent River, Md., achieved the first automatic landings in an F/A-18A Hornet using the Global Positioning System (GPS)-based JPALS system for guidance.

The JPALS system combines the satellite-based GPS, data link and computer technology to yield an integrated, multi-function air traffic control system that provides landing, surveillance, TACAN-like navigation and two-way data communication. The result is a simple, low-cost and highly reliable system that is compatible with the Navy's future ship designs and aircraft equipage. The above deck, non-rotating antenna set is compatible with the smaller superstructures of future ship designs and simplifies installation aboard existing ships of all classes.

Lieutenant Commander Chris McCarthy, chief test pilot for JPALS, said, "The JPALS system has matched, or exceeded, the performance of the current Automatic Carrier Landing System. Enhanced performance has been demonstrated in ease of use, couple-up capability, and ride quality." Shore-based testing of JPALS has demonstrated both manual and fully automatic hands-free approaches all the way to touchdown

Glenn Colby, the Navy's technical director of the JPALS program, said, "During this first phase of JPALS, the primary focus was to achieve the accuracy and robustness necessary to support shipboard approaches, including fully automatic landings."

Colby further said, "The Navy and Raytheon have been working together to develop the necessary techniques to make this system a reality. The ship stabilization and aircraft integration processing has been implemented in a system developed by NAVAIR called the Naval Avionics Platform Integration Emulator (NAPIE), which allows the decision makers to evaluate operationally relevant performance early in the test program."

Captain Jim Campbell, head of Air Traffic Control System Development at NAVAIR, said, "We had only planned to be post-processing data from the flight tests at this time. Instead, the maturity of the Raytheon prototype and the NAPIE integration system have allowed us to perform production-representative Mode I landings on shore well ahead of plan. We are now scheduled to conduct flight tests aboard the USS Enterprise in November 2000. This is a significant accomplishment given the extreme difficulty of developing a shipboard auto-land
system and demonstrates what can be achieved when top technical talent from the Navy and its contractors work as a team."

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