Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Air Force officials work on trimmed-down instrument landing system

A modified CL-60 Challenger aircraft flies a low-level approach past an instrument landing system being used in 2007 in Southwest Asia. The 853rd Electronic Systems Group staff will soon be releasing a request for proposals for a deployable instrument landing system, which will be leaner and more transportable. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Gonzalez)

by Patty Welsh, 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) -- Officials from the 853rd Electronic Systems Group here are working to improve the transportability and deployability of instrument landing systems with an upcoming request for proposal for a deployable instrument landing system, or D-ILS.

An instrument landing system is a precision-approach system that consists of hardware, including antennas and electronics, and a software application.

"Having a mobile ILS system in the Air Force inventory will provide warfighters in theater with three major capabilities: the ability to convert a bare base into an operating airfield, the ability to augment an existing airfield or the ability to temporarily restore ILS capabilities at damaged airfields during humanitarian operations," said Col. Jimmie Schuman, the 853rd ELSG commander.

The D-ILS will provide a system of equal performance to existing Category I fixed-based systems that provide aircraft guidance on final approach in low visibility/low ceiling weather conditions.

From a transportability perspective, a fixed-base ILS is very large and takes multiple aircraft to deliver all the equipment. The D-ILS will fit onto a single C-130 Hercules, which will provide the Air Force with a great deal of flexibility.

"The current fixed-based ILS systems are time-tested solutions that everyone in the aviation community has confidence in, since all major airports have been using this technology for more than 50 years," said Matthew MacGregor, the program manager for deployable air traffic control and landing systems. "However, fixed-base ILS systems are fairly large structures that require installation of concrete and utilize large containers of electronics and cabling. We are working to scale that system down and make it as lean as possible so a small number of folks can install, configure and maintain the system in a deployed environment."

Remote monitoring and maintenance is another capability the D-ILS will offer. The maintenance concept for D-ILS is very lean, as it allows for the majority of maintenance configuration activities to be conducted from a remote location.

The logistics concept for D-ILS consists of standing up a remote maintenance center in theater that serves as a central depot storage point for all maintenance items needed to sustain the system at multiple airfields. A maintainer is expected to deploy from the remote maintenance center when a system requires maintenance versus having dedicated maintainers at each site.

This concept significantly reduces the maintenance footprint of the system and avoids the need for a large number of system experts in the field.

Members from the 853rd ELSG said they are confident they will receive proposals that include these abilities.

"We have done a lot of market research and have seen the potential solutions industry may propose," said Laura Horstmann, the D-ILS lead engineer. "We feel that industry is prepared from a technology and technical maturity perspective, since they are primarily utilizing commercial technology and understand the integration risk associated with tailoring this system to meet our users' needs."

The final RFP is anticipated to be out in May with source selection in June, and an award by December. Initial operational capability is scheduled to occur in early 2013.