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New radar keeps skies safe

by Airman First Class David Jackson
40th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

08/21/02 - OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- A new radar is improving safety for aircraft landing at a forward-operating location supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The AN/MPN-25 Rapid Deployment Radar System was deployed in January.

"We brought it here to prove the system and provide a higher level of safety for the aircraft around the airfield," said Capt. Russ Roslewski, 462nd Air Expeditionary Group AN/MPN-25 mobile radar flight commander.

The radar system can be transported in one C-130 Hercules and can be set up in as little as four hours if required. With the radar, air traffic controllers can monitor aircraft at further distances and during unfavorable weather conditions.

"We can radar identify all traffic within 100 miles of the airfield, (and) give (pilots) the aircraft vectors to get them to the airport if they can't navigate themselves," said Roslewski. "It also helps us monitor the aircraft and keep them separated if more than one aircraft coming in or going out."

Prior to the radar's arrival, tower controllers had to take position reports from the pilots and then use those reports to advise other aircraft of their position. However, with the new radar, the controllers can "see" the position, distance and direction of all aircraft flying within the vicinity of the airfield.

"This system has the most precise precision approach radar antenna of any mobile radar system that I have used in the last 15 years," said Tech. Sgt. Bobby Jones, assistant chief controller. "The system provides the capability to observe changes left or right of course in feet, and displays real-time information reflecting an aircraft's position in regard to the optimum glide path. The system is also the first of its kind that depicts weather location and intensity in three different system modes. We can control an aircraft down to only 200 feet above the runway before the pilot has to take over visually."

"This is the first time I've ever been deployed with a system like this," said Tech. Sgt. Reid Woodward, chief of air traffic control training. "Over a short period, this system has proven to be good. Because it is all digital, it gives us a better presentation of the aircraft."

This system facilitates a smoother flow of operations not only with the Air Force aircraft but also with the Navy aircraft and other planes that come here, Roslewski said.

"Our primary goal is to ensure the safe and expeditious flow of air traffic using the latest technology available," he said. "With this we can provide a better means of controlling the aircraft, ensuring every plane lands and departs safely so that Operation Enduring Freedom can carry on."

According to Roslewski, using the radar at this location has become a test of its abilities.

"This deployment has allowed us demonstrate and observe how well the system performs in a (varied) environment away from home," he said.

"We have learned a lot about the capabilities of the system and the limitations that it has," said Roslewski. "For example, the radar coverage extends out to about a hundred miles, but unfortunately, the radios don't always provide that range. That has been something that we have had to find solutions for by working with the control tower."

Another advantage of the new system is ease of repair. The radar has a maintenance computer that indicates exactly where the malfunction is located. However, with the old system, fixing problems was not as simple.

"On the old system you would have to go through and find where the problem is, on this one the system tells you where the problem is," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Madditt, radar maintenance technician. "It cuts the down on the troubleshooting aspect overall."

Roslewski feels the radar system has helped make flying safer for people supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

"We're glad that we are having a chance to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom, I think with this system we have enhanced flight safety for everyone," said Roslewski.

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