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Raytheon’s Stars Rolls Out to Largest U.S. Tracons

 - June 17, 2013, 2:50 AM
The Raytheon deployable radar approach control (D-RAPCON) system is a modular ATC system that can be transported by four C-130s.

The Raytheon standard terminal automation replacement system (Stars) began continuous operations in early May at the Dallas-Fort Worth terminal radar approach control (Tracon) facility, the first of 11 large Tracons in the U.S. to manage air traffic continuously using the new ATC automation system.

Stars integrates aircraft surveillance and flight-plan data and presents the information to controllers on high-resolution, 20-by-20-inch color displays. The system is capable of tracking up to 1,350 airborne aircraft simultaneously within a terminal area, according to Raytheon. The Stars multi-sensor fusion tracker is also integrated in the Lockheed Martin en route automation modernization (Eram) system used by the FAA’s air route traffic control centers (Artccs) to manage high-altitude traffic.

Raytheon (Chalet A294, Static D166) is the prime contractor for updating the U.S. terminal-area ATC infrastructure under the Federal Aviation Administration’s long-running Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement (TAMR) contract. Under the TAMR Phase 1 effort completed in 2007, the company replaced automated radar processing and display systems at 47 Tracons and their associated ATC towers. TAMR Phase 2 modernized or replaced automation systems at nine FAA sites through 2009.

In April 2011, Raytheon announced a $177 million contract modification from the FAA to deploy Stars at the 11 largest Tracons, replacing their legacy CARTS, or common automated radar terminal systems, as part of TAMR Phase 3. These are the Northern California, Southern California, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, New York, Potomac (Washington, D.C. area), St. Louis, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago and Louisville Tracons, considered the most capable facilities in the U.S. national airspace system. The Dallas-Fort Worth Tracon, responsible for Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW) International Airport and Dallas Love Field, was first to achieve the FAA’s continuous operations milestone.

TAMR Phase 3 is being conducted in two segments. Once the largest Tracons are equipped, Stars will be rolled out to nearly 100 remaining CARTS sites, according to the FAA.

The transition to Stars was troubled by delays and escalating costs in its early years. Robert Meyer, Raytheon business development manager for air traffic management, said the two-year transition to continuous operations at Dallas-Fort Worth was smooth. “It’s attributable to a tremendous team effort between the FAA team and the Raytheon team to ensure that all of the stakeholders involved in transitioning a major air traffic control system had confidence that the system will do what they say it’s going to do,” Meyer said.

An internal FAA employees newsletter dated May 16 concurred with Meyer’s assessment. “This effort has been a model of teamwork and collaboration that’s culminating in (the) Dallas-Fort Worth Tracon and other area facilities implementing Stars on time,” Mitch Herrick, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association program lead, states in the report. According to the article: “The effort to bring Stars to the DFW Tracon promises benefits that should extend beyond the Dallas area. Every other facility using Stars will have the opportunity to use the rules and new software functionality, as well as new training created for the DFW Tracon.”

The Northern California Tracon responsible for the Oakland, San Francisco and other airports will be the next large facility to transition to Stars, and is scheduled to begin operations later this year, Meyer said. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Tracon was moving toward an operational readiness decision as the key site for a technology refresh at facilities that already have Stars, according to the FAA. In 2010, the Philadelphia Tracon was the first major facility to begin displaying fused radar and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) aircraft targets.

Raytheon also reported progress in the deployment of its latest generation AutoTrac III (AT3) system outside of the U.S. AT3 processes radar, ADS-B and multilateration surveillance data and fuses the information with flight-plan data filed by pilots for display at controller workstations. The system is being used by Dubai Air Navigation Services to provide approach control for Dubai International and Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International airports. Earlier this year, the system was undergoing testing; it is now fully operational, Meyer said. He added that Raytheon has integrated an “arrival manager” tool in the Dubai system that sequences arriving aircraft, providing controllers with a “valued added stream of information” for spacing arrivals.

Raytheon is also under contract to provide AT3 in Hong Kong. That system was undergoing site acceptance this year and is expected to begin operating in 2014. The system’s launch customer, Airports Authority of India, operates AT3 at the Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai centers responsible for three of India’s four flight information regions.

On the military front, Raytheon was recently awarded a $50.6 million initial contract from the U.S. Air Force for engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) of a new deployable radar approach control (D-Rapcon) system to replace aging mobile radars in the service’s inventory. The contract calls for building one EMD unit and includes production options for up to 18 D-Rapcon systems, for a total potential value of $260 million.

Raytheon refers to its D-Rapcon solution as a “control tower in a box,” consisting of primary and secondary radars integrated in a deployable, quickly installed radar antenna; an operations center with eight controller positions; and a VHF/UHF voice communications center. The system can be transported in four C-130s to a forward operating area or disastersite and assembled within six hours to direct air traffic, Meyer said. “Deployability is one of our sweet spots,” he said. “It’s something that we’ve been doing for many years, and we’re going to apply all those lessons learned to what we’re doing for the Air Force under D-Rapcon.”