Russian authorities have begun deploying a new satellite-based air traffic management infrastructure across the country which will enable aircraft to take advantage of automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) technology.
It follows last year's Russian Federal Service for Air Transport (FSAT) directive which ordered introduction of ADS-B for operational air traffic control (ATC) by October 2005. Under this directive the Tyumen region of Russia - which covers an area of 1.4 million km2 east of the Ural mountains - around 8.4% of the entire country - and includes around ten flight information regions - will be the first to implement the programme.
Following certification by Russia's MAK regulatory body - expected next year - operational use of the Tyumen system is scheduled to start in 2002 with full operations commencing in 2003. The ADS-B network will then be extended to other parts of the country.
ADS-B is the concept by which an aircraft broadcasts its own position data, derived from navigation satellites, over a datalink channel. The information can be received by other aircraft or ground-based sensors and used to maintain airspace surveillance without relying on independent radar systems.
Equipment installation has already begun. Five airports - including the main airport at Samara, the scene of satellite-based approach and landing trials by Lufthansa - will receive ground systems while two Russian airlines will equip their fleets with ADS-B avionics.
FSAT believes that ADS-B is suited to the particular demands of large Russian regions where primary radar coverage is limited and secondary radar is virtually non-existent. It has participated in experiments in conjunction with European organisations such as the Swedish CAA over the past three years, initially fitting an Antonov An-2 with ADS-B avionics before introducing an Ilyushin Il-18 test aircraft for long-distance test flights.
Moscow's GosNIIAS State Research Institute for Aviation Systems and GosNII Aeronavigatsia, along with the St Petersburg-based manufacturing group NITA, are actively promoting the ADS-B deployment.
The Russian ADS-B network will be based on the VHF Digital Link (VDL) Mode 4 datalink and designed to meet the standards presented earlier this year for acceptance by ICAO.
VDL Mode 4, the ICAO-designation for the Swedish-developed self-organising, time-division multiple-access (STDMA) system, is one of three datalink candidates for ADS-B and is the technology most favoured by European industry. It relies on a time-division technique for transmitting information, whereby a 25kHz VHF radio channel is effectively divided into a series of slots, each of which carries part of the data being sent. This enables several transmissions to be carried on the channel simultaneously.
Russia has rejected the two remaining ADS-B datalink candidates - universal access transceiver (UAT) and extended squitter Mode-S, both at the forefront of recent US ADS-B trials - as inferior options.
Samara International Airport is also planning to deploy a surface-guidance and control system as part of the implementation programme. Moscow's Domodedovo Airport has already conducted trials of a similar ground-surveillance system for monitoring aircraft service vehicles.
Following tests earlier this year ADS-B is also to be used to aid surveillance of police and rescue helicopters within dense airspace surrounding Moscow.
Under an agreement with the Russian authorities GP&C of Denmark is supplying equipment for the Tyumen ADS-B programme, although the agreement also includes a letter of intent to establish a Russian manufacturing line for the systems.
Swedish aviation consultancy Avtech is also participating in the project. Avtech director Lars Lindberg describes the agreement as being "of immense importance" for the development of ADS-B".
He says that satellite-based navigation and positioning has "huge potential" to shorten routes across Russia, but adds: "There is also a safety issue in the region: collision-avoidance systems cannot detect Russian-built transponders, and so we cannot see domestic Russian aircraft.
"It's very important for European airlines to have this improved infrastructure. The Russian decision is an important step towards the realisation of a more efficient air traffic management system which will address safety and capacity aspects in both core and remote areas."