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Deployable landing system gives pilots global reach

  • Published
  • By Benjamin Newell, 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Airmen will be able to setup instrument landing systems at austere landing strips within days, now that the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center here authorized full rate production of the Deployable Instrument Landing System.

Instrument landing systems allow pilots to safely land at night and under poor visibility by providing aircraft precise landing vectors, which makes undeveloped runways more useful. Developed runways have permanent systems, but undeveloped runways sometimes have no electronic landing system capability. D-ILS provides instrument landing capabilities where they never existed, or where they have been degraded by enemy action or natural disasters. It facilitates humanitarian relief operations and supports the 24-hour, 365-day potential operational footprint of the U.S. Air Force.

“Following a contract award to the Thales Group in July 2015, the program management office here at Hanscom spent the past 27 months verifying and validating system requirements,” said 2nd Lt. Jessica Paz, D-ILS deputy program manager. “Reaching Milestone C gives us the ability to award a full-rate production contract in the near future for up to 30 systems.”

Airmen with the 46th Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, worked for several months to learn the setup process and basic maintenance of the D-ILS system. Their efforts will help standardize the setup checklists all air traffic control systems Airmen will use assembling D-ILS units around the globe.  

Three Airmen can set D-ILS up in approximately five days. It’s delivered in two shipping containers. After performing surveys of the runway, Airmen setup equipment in the containers, including a localizer antenna array, providing precise runway coordinates, and the glideslope mast, which helps calibrate an aircraft’s approach direction and rate of descent. Finally, the system includes two electronics shelters to generate the signal, communicating precision guidance to landing aircraft.

“The most complex part of the setup is the mast,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Spence, who traveled from his home station at the 53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, to Eglin to study and test the system. “The main antennae must be within one degree of vertical, and it’s over 50 feet tall.”

After the system is operational and flight checked, air traffic controllers can sequence aircraft in all weather conditions for landing, which increases the air traffic capacity, safety and efficiency of the airfield. Any military or commercial aircraft equipped with ILS can use the system for precision approach and landing in almost any conditions.

“It’s everything a modern runway has, in a box,” said Paz. “This is exactly the type of behind-the-scenes technology that allows our mobility and combat air forces to safely operate worldwide."