Looking For Portable ATC System Which Could Deploy Early,
Electronic Systems Center officials intend to call for proposals
within the next few months for development and production of a new
deployable air traffic control system. Referred to as the
Deployable Radar Approach Control the system could be used at
forward operating locations, however austere, for warfighting needs
or contingency response. The system could also provide rapid back
up for failed military or even civil fixed-base systems, said Diane
McElligott, a program manager for the Aerospace Management Systems
The D-RAPCON system could be deployed very early in a conflict,
or right after a natural disaster occurs. "We're expecting minimal
infrastructure to be there," Ms. McElligott said. "The system will
come with its own back-up power and the stand-alone equipment
needed so that it can function in just about any situation."
D-RAPCON is composed of two subsystems -- air surveillance radar
and operations -- and the requirement is for each to be separately
deployable, if necessary. This means that if the radar at a site
becomes inoperable but the control tower is fine, or vice versa,
the required D-RAPCON subsystem could be deployed to fill the need.
The system, once fielded, will replace aging systems that have
become harder and far costlier to maintain. Most of those aging
systems, including the TPN-19s, have been in the inventory for four
decades or more. "Maintainers are having to machine parts
themselves because they can no longer be ordered," Ms. McElligott
said. Because of this, while the TPN-19 systems will continue to be
used, when a system becomes inoperable, it will no longer be
In addition, the new system is expected to significantly improve
radar accuracy and reliability. While the legacy systems rely on
analog technology, D-RAPCON will process radar signals digitally.
It will also operate in both military and civilian radar bands. The
system will provide sequencing, separation of aircraft, navigation
assistance and airspace control services, all with the modern
accuracy and other state-of-the-art features, said Col. Jimmie
Schuman, the senior materiel leader of the Aerospace Management
The new system will also offer capabilities that exceed the main
"interim solution" the U.S. military is currently using, a system
called Air Traffic Navigation Integration and Coordination System.
D-RAPCON's radar will provide 60-mile lookout versus ATNAVICS' 30
miles and accommodate more operators. The goal is to field a system
that is deployable within 48 hours and can be carried by up to four
C-130 cargo haulers. Once fielded, the system can be set up in less
than 24 hours. In contrast, it generally takes about three months
to put up a fixed-based system.
Air Force officials plan to buy 19 D-RAPCON systems, 10 of which
will reside in the Air National Guard, seven at active-duty Air
Force Space Command units, one for the service's air traffic
control school and another for depot maintenance activities. Ms.
McElligott estimates the total contract value to be more than $400
million, with more than $300 million devoted to production and
approximately $80 million earmarked for development.