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Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems (ATCALS)

The National Airspace System (NAS) program will replace the Air Traffic Control (ATC) equipment used to support ATC's radar-approach control mission. NAS includes voice switches, approach control and tower automation, air surveillance radar, and a Special-Use Airspace (SUA) scheduling and utilization reporting tool. The NAS program modernizes functions within the Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems (ATCALS) at 65 DoD sites and includes the Military Airspace Management System (MAMS).

The NAS modernization will enhance precision engagement through technological innovations to ATCALS and MAMS, which will allow DoD to keep pace with state-of-the-art digital radar-approach control equipment and to maintain control of SUA to ensure wartime readiness.

The ATCALS in the DoD NAS comprises the Voice Communications Switching System (VCSS), the DoD Advanced Automation System (DAAS), and the Digital Airport Surveillance Radar (DASR) system. ATCALS modernization will be accomplished by acquiring commercial-off-the-shelf systems and nondevelopmental items. The systems will interoperate with functionally identical systems, standard commercial and military voice circuits, and standard digital radar feeds.

The MAMS is a software tool that will automate scheduling of DoD SUA. The system will include a single database of all utilization data for Military Operations Areas, Restricted Areas, Warning Areas, Prohibited Areas, Alert Areas, Danger Areas, Controlled Firing Areas, and Military Training Routes. MAMS will store activity schedules and produce reports on demand. It will track users of all military airspace by airspace name, category, user name, time, and altitude block. MAMS is a platform-independent, Worldwide Web-based application. It will require only a web browser and will be able to be accessed by authorized users at any time.

The existing ATCALS has two problems: (1) limited interoperability, and (2) excessive growth of operations and support costs. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has undertaken a massive upgrade of the nation's ATC system infrastructure by systematically replacing analog systems with state-of-the-art digital technology. The new systems take advantage of the significantly increased capabilities of digital radars, computers, and data distribution networks. Most DoD systems are currently analog and will not easily or economically interface with the new generation FAA equipment. Without the added capability, the DoD will be unable to continue providing transparent service to all ATC users, military or civilian. Furthermore, the DoD NAS COEA indicates that DoD will experience excessive operations and support costs if the DoD ATC is not replaced.

The ATCALS modernization program will upgrade DoD Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar-approach control facilities to ensure compatibility with the FAA's ATC facilities. The ATCALS modernization portion of DoD NAS must be fully interoperable with the FAA's modernization of analog equipment and be capable of providing FAA equivalent ATC services to civilian and military aircraft. When fully fielded, the DoD ATCALS will be comprised of the following three programs:

  • Voice Communications Switching System (VCSS) performs all control functions needed for ATC communications, including radio, intercom, and telephone access. VCSS will provide an interface to analog switch and distribution systems and will interface with legal voice recorders for recording all transmissions.
  • DoD Advanced Automation System (DAAS) will receive and process both primary and secondary radar data, flight plan information, weather, airport environmental data, and administrative information (such as Notices to Airmen) required for operations of the local control facility.
  • Digital Airport Surveillance Radar (DASR) consists of integrated primary and secondary radar subsystems and will provide highly accurate target data to the local control facilities. The DASR's digital data output is compatible with the FAA's radar network and the DAAS. The DASR will have improved target detection and accuracy, clutter rejection, aircraft identification accuracy, altitude data, and weather capability. The system also will provide search information under conditions of ground clutter, weather, interference, and ground vehicular traffic.

MAMS will provide the ability to efficiently schedule special use airspace usage in a non-realtime manner, accurately document military airspace utilization, interoperate with the FAA, and be compatible with the NAS.

The ATCALS modernization program was on hold from August 1994 to October 1996. In August 1994 the FAA Administrator terminated Advanced Automation System development efforts and directed the FAA to find a commercial-off-the-shelf and nondevelopmental item solutions. The FAA and DoD have been sorting out roles and responsibilities; and since October 1996 the ATCALS modernization program has made significant progress.

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