Raytheon Advances JPALS Landing System for F-35B/Cs

 - October 20, 2016, 2:13 PM
The U.S. Navy conducted tests of the JPALS system on an aircraft carrier in 2013 using two F/A-18C Hornets. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Raytheon will finish integrating the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps F-35 fighters under a recently awarded second phase of the long-running program. The contractor will also develop autoland capability for the F-35 and the Navy’s future MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based unmanned refueling aircraft.

On September 21, the Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) awarded Raytheon a $254.5 million contract to continue work on eight JPALS engineering development models (EDMs) and deliver two additional EDMs to support early operational capability requirements for the Marine Corps F-35B and Navy F-35C. The contract also calls for Raytheon to develop initial operational requirements for MQ-25 autoland.

JPALS is a differential GPS-based precision landing system that guides aircraft to carriers and amphibious assault ships in all weather conditions and in surface conditions to sea state 5 using an encrypted, jam-proof datalink. The system makes use of software and receiver hardware on the aircraft and an array of GPS sensors, mast-mounted antennas and processing/datalink equipment racks on the ship. The Navy plans to declare early operational capability on two amphibious assault ships in 2018 to support Marine Corps F-35Bs, Raytheon executives said. Initial operational capability is planned in 2020.

Navair awarded Raytheon a contract in July 2008 to develop the original eight EDMs, for what was then called Increment 1 of the program; a second increment was to develop a land-based capability for the Air Force. In late 2013, the Navy conducted a series of test landings to the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt using two F/A-18C Hornets fitted with “functionality representative” avionics kits. The Air Force eventually withdrew from the JPALS program, leading to a breach of Nunn-McCurdy Act cost threshholds in 2014 and delaying the effort, executives said.

The existing eight EDMs aredistributed among different locations, with two at a Raytheon laboratory in Fullerton, Calif., one at the Patuxent River, Md., Naval Air Station and the remainder on amphibious assault ships and CVN-class aircraft carriers.

All three F-35 models will have JPALS capability embedded in Block 3F software, the final software release under the F-35 system development and demonstration program. But Air Force F-35As are not covered under Raytheon’s contract. “This ties in with the Navy’s investment on the F-35,” said Robert Delorge, Raytheon vice president for transportation and support services.