Raytheon intends to reach operational capability of its military joint precision approach and landing system (JPALS) this year, and start production in 2019.
The manufacturer has been testing the system since 2015 and earlier this year conducted landing trials with a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning aboard the US Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
Designed to facilitate precision approach guidance and automatic landing capability in all weather conditions, the system uses GPS signals in combination with gyroscopic equipment aboard the ship to feed data about the vessel’s movement into the approach path calculation.
All data is sent to the aircraft via an encrypted ultra-high frequency radio signal, and then processed by the aircraft’s on-board equipment.
The US Navy’s brief for Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services division covers provision of a system for “current [F-35] and future aircraft”, business development director Wayne Scott tells FlightGlobal.
He says the manufacturer is evaluating options to employ the system for legacy aircraft, but notes that a certain level of computing capability is required by the aircraft’s onboard equipment.
Raytheon sees opportunities for further deployment beyond the US Navy. Scott says the manufacturer has had enquiries by the US Air Force and Marine Corps for a land-based system. A prototype has been developed, and Scott says he expects a trial to begin within a year.
He adds that the system could provide precision landing capability at an airfield within two hours, while installation of conventional ground infrastructure would typically be a matter of months.
Raytheon vice-president of navigation, weather and services Matt Gilligan says: “There are many fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft around the world and across the services that deploy to harsh, low-visibility environments where JPALS would be extremely valuable."