After successfully integrating its Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) on F-35B fighters and a growing number of US Navy aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, Raytheon is pitching a modified version of the system to the US Air Force for auto-landing F-35A aircraft at expeditionary airfields.
The company is in talks with the USAF on how exactly the service would like a portable system configured to automatically land the Lockheed Martin F-35A on remote airfields without traditional instrument landing systems. Such airfields may have difficult approaches due to surrounding mountains, bad weather or potential enemy fire.
Raytheon says it is building a Humvee portable version of JPALS which could be transported to expeditionary air bases aboard a C-130J transport and set up in 60 to 90 minutes. The system would be able to manage 50 different aircraft making different approaches within a radius of 20nm.
JPALS is a GPS-guided system that is secured with an anti-spoofing, anti-jamming data link. The program is already uploaded onto all versions of the F-35. Raytheon is aiming to add it to legacy aircraft as well, though the company hasn’t yet secured any contracts to do so.
Initially designed to help a pilot land on an aircraft carrier in poor visibility or after long, tiring flights, the auto-landing system can put down an aircraft in a 20cm by 20cm box, says Raytheon.
“It was so precise that when they were testing it that they were having to move around the touchdown point on the aircraft carrier because the deck was getting worn out by the tail hook hitting the same spot,” says Brooks Cleveland, Raytheon’s senior aviation advisor for precision landing systems.