Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: Raytheon air traffic management advances STARS, ASR-11 radar

 - June 20, 2011, 7:40 PM

Raytheon has new developments to report in both air traffic automation systems and radar portions of its air traffic management (ATM) business. In April, the U.S. group announced a $177 million contract modification from the Federal Aviation Administration to deploy the standard terminal automation replacement system (STARS) at the 11 largest terminal radar approach control (Tracon) facilities in the U.S. currently equipped with older automated radar terminal systems.

STARS is a command-and-control system that manages terminal area airspace, tracking up to 1,350 aircraft simultaneously. The system interfaces with multiple radars and presents flight and weather information to air traffic controllers on high-resolution 20x20 color displays.

Seven of the Tracon facilities, starting with Dallas-Fort Worth, will be converted to STARS by the end of 2013. The schedule calls for all 11 facilities, known as 3E Tracons and associated towers, to be converted by the end of 2015. The 3E designation is a measure of capability as opposed to traffic volume.

Rollout Under Way

The STARS rollout “is more than under way,” Robert Meyer, Raytheon business development lead for ATM, told AIN. “We’re working extremely closely with FAA to define what these new systems will look like when they’re implemented in the national airspace system.”

Raytheon was awarded the STARS contract from FAA back in 1996, originally to modernize 191 FAA and 140 U.S. Air Force terminal approach control facilities. The program was troubled by delays and escalating cost in its early years, with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), which represents FAA controllers, raising human factors issues with the system design.

“As far as the black eye at the very beginning, I would characterize the lesson learned being that the FAA and Raytheon made a mistake by not involving the users– NATCA–when they defined what it is they wanted,” said Michael Espinola, Raytheon STARS program manager. “When the union looked at [the system] they wanted a- hundred-and-one different things, literally.

“We kind of got ourselves stuck and it took us a couple of years to introduce those associated changes and then we started moving out,” Espinola explained. “All those changes cost a lot of money. We spent a lot of that money effecting those changes and when we got down to the fifty-first site, they were out of money. That’s when the agency had to go and request more money and look at the bigger decision of continuing with program.”

FAA considered recompeting the program, and in October 2009 and February 2010 issued requests for information to industry, Espinola said. There was a possibility of changing STARS for another automation system, even one from a foreign vendor.

The April contract modification from FAA to deploy STARS at the 11 most capable terminal radar sites in the national airspace system, known as 3E Tracons and associated towers, validated Raytheon STARS as the system-wide terminal radar solution, said Espinola. “The FAA is driving to what they call a common automation platform for efficiencies, and this clearly makes the note that they’ve made a decision that STARS is the common terminal automation platform,” he said.

There are now 114 STARS sites completed: 63 operated by the U.S. Department of Defense and 51 by FAA, according to Raytheon. There are 30 more DOD sites, the 11 3E Tracons and 90 lesser capable 2E Tracons remaining to complete the NAS.

Abreast of New Data

STARS is keeping pace with new data sources, such as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), being introduced through FAA’s NextGen air traffic modernization effort, Meyer said. The display of fused radar and ADS-B targets was first achieved in March 2010 at the Philadelphia Tracon servicing Philadelphia International Airport, the first major airport to deploy STARS in 2002. “STARS is going to have to be able to ingest that data…and properly display that to controllers,” he said.

Raytheon has the STARS program and another major joint procurement by FAA and the DOD in the U.S. The company is contracted with the DOD to supply up to 213 new ASR-11 digital airport surveillance radars (DASR), an agreement from which FAA procures radars. The ASR-11 system provides primary surveillance radar coverage to 60 miles and monopulse secondary surveillance radar to 120 miles. There are currently 130 installed ASR-11s in the continental U.S.

Meyer said Raytheon has developed new “schemes” or algorithms within the ASR-11 advanced signal data processor, including one developed to mitigate the effect of wind-farm turbine blades, which have radar returns that can mimic aircraft, making them undetectable to controllers.

Self-separation Tool

Another “altitude estimation scheme” is being developed with the U.S. Air Force Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts under a cooperative research and development agreement. Meyer described this as a “self-separation” tool for controllers and operators of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), supporting combined operations of manned and unmanned aircraft. “There is increasingly a requirement for UAS to operate outside restricted airspace,” Meyer said. “That is probably becoming one of the largest priorities between the DOD and FAA. Raytheon recognized that this was going to be a high priority.”

The scheme employs concurrent beam processing, a method of detecting airborne objects by concurrent processing of radar signal returns from high and low beams. The aim is a surveillance approach that would detect even aircraft that do not have transponders that can be interrogated by secondary surveillance radar. “We’re looking at introducing a scheme to ASR-11 that will allow it to look at non-transponder-equipped aircraft and give the controller good enough altitude information to keep safe separation,” Meyer said.

Outside the U.S., Raytheon is implementing its latest generation AutoTrac III air traffic management system for the Airports Authority of India at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi and airports in Mumbai and Chennai. Other customers for AutoTrac III are the civil aviation authorities of Dubai and Hong Kong.

AutoTrac, based on an open architecture design, provides multi-sensor tracking, flight data and clearance processing scalable from a tower automation system to an integrated national multi-center system. The third-generation automation system “includes all the bells and whistles and functionality that we see air navigation service providers will need to handle” future air-traffic demands, such as 4-D trajectory approaches, Meyer said.

Raytheon also is under contract from the Indian Space Research Organization for the “full operational phase” of India’s Gagan program to augment GPS signals with ground reference stations, comparable to WAAS in the U.S., Meyer said. The GPS overlay is scheduled for completion in June 2013.