US Federal Aviation Authority officials believe that software development problems that have dogged the Northrop Grumman Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) have been resolved.

Meanwhile, the US agency will select in September the contractor for a lower-cost version of the Northrop Grumman Airport Surface Detection Equipment 3 (ASDE-3) ground mapping radar system which is installed at 34 major US airports.

Fielding of AMASS, which adds an automation enhancement to the ASDE-3 radar, providing tower controllers with conflict alert of runway incursions, has been delayed by two years, and the project has overrun on cost. Even last year, the FAA believed all AMASS units would be commissioned by this August. A prototype is installed at San Francisco International and three units are being tested in St Louis, Detroit and Atlanta.

The FAA says Northrop Grumman has debugged new AMASS software, successfully completing tests earlier this year. Three days of critical controller operational testing is set for Atlanta's Hartsfield International in mid-June, followed by 30 days of independent operational test and evaluation trials.

Airport commissioning will follow, with all ASDE-3 radars gaining the enhancements by September 2002. False alarms, previously high, are now at an acceptable level, says the FAA.

The proposed low-cost ASDE-X would be installed at an undetermined number of US airports without ASDE-3 radars. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon/Sensis are competing for the work. A Formal request for offers will be issued in June, with bids due a month later.

The core ASDE-X system consists of a high resolution ground surveillance primary X-band radar, a multilateration sensor capable of receiving Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, a multiprocessor and multiple displays.

Source: Flight International