Webster Field delivers improved navigation aid to Marine Corps

Marines from MACS-1 ATC Detachment A inspect proper cabling prior to erecting the antenna on the lighter, more mobile AN/TRN-47(V)2.

By Jeremy Scarbrough

Air Traffic Control & Landing

Systems Division

After seven years of research, development, testing, and production, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Division at NAWCAD Webster Outlying Field (WOLF) delivered the first of eleven AN/TRN-47(V)2, Airfield Mobile TACAN (AMTAC) systems to Marine Air Control Squadron One, Air Traffic Control Detachment A aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, July 8-17.

The AMTAC is a highly mobile, all-weather, ground-based tactical navigation aid designed to provide bearing, distance, and station identification to friendly military aircraft. This information provides pilots with the appropriate direction to fly, how far away they are from the landing zone, as well as providing a designated three-letter Morse code used to identify the airfield or landing zone they are approaching.

The AMTAC’s mobile design will provide Marine Corps Combatant Commanders the capability of rapidly deploying the full range of Tactical Air Navigation System (TACAN) services to existing or remote aircraft landing zones in support of training, humanitarian, and combat operations worldwide.

Under the program management of PMA-213, NAWCAD WOLF’s Area Control Systems Branch—as the organic Lead System Integrator (oLSI)—engineered the AMTAC to exceed the capabilities of its predecessor, the AN/TRN-44A.

The aging AN/TRN-44A TACAN Set has been in the Marine Corps Expeditionary Air Traffic Control inventory for over 35 years and has been plagued with parts obsolescence in recent years, causing repairs to suffer long lead times. This cumbersome system also requires the support of non-organic heavy equipment to transport and position, large generator assets to feed its massive input power requirement of 18,700 Watts, and six Marines six hours to set up and operate.

The AMTAC significantly reduces the operational footprint in every area including mobility, weight, power consumption, setup/pack-up time, and personnel requirements thus producing a product that fulfills the Marine Corps’ strategic guidance for a lighter, more mobile force.

“The AMTAC system demonstrates the benefit of the government as the organic Lead System Integrator,” said Lawrence Whites, director of the ATC Systems Division. “It utilizes the best industry partner components and agile evolution of requirements to fulfill the user’s needs.”

Whereas the AN/TRN-44A TACAN had a massive, seven-ton footprint, the newly-designed AN/TRN-47(V)1 is a mere two tons. Thus, it is a trailer-based system capable of being towed by Highly Mobile, Multi-Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV). This roll-on/roll-off capability eliminates the requirement for non-organic heavy equipment support and gives Marine Corps Commanders the flexibility to deploy full TACAN services more efficiently and to locations not suitable for the legacy AN/TRN-44A TACAN’s unwieldy footprint.

The AMTAC’s compact design also realized a reduction in operational set up time by 67% with 50% fewer personnel. Other notable improvements realized by the AMTAC design is an 87% reduction in input power compared to its predecessor, as well as the capability to wirelessly monitor system performance up to 125 miles away.

Warrant Officer Richard Robinson, MACS-1 ATC Det A, Maintenance Officer, was quick to appreciate the AMTAC system’s advantages. “After taking the AMTAC to a field operation for the first time, our Marines were quick to learn some of the advantages of the new system,” he said. “Lighter weight and mobile, the system was set up and operational in approximately two hours. The new system cut off six hours of set up time which allowed the Marines to move on and assist other sections. Overall, the section is excited to have the AMTAC and looking forward to operating and maintaining it in the future.”

Christian Utara, executive director of NAWCAD WOLF, also celebrated the successful test by adding, “The AMTAC team’s effort to work directly with the fleet to develop this new system resulted in the customer’s expectations being exceeded.”

Overall, the AN/TRN-47(V)2 AMTAC is a dramatic improvement over its legacy counterpart in every aspect, and will serve as a paradigm shift to the Marine Corps’ expeditionary TACAN concept of employment.