|Marine Air Control Squadron 1 Detachment Charlie with their new Air Traffic Navigation, Integration and Coordination System after completing setup of the system in Yuma, Arizona on Sept. 8, 2014.|
NAS Patuxent River December 1, 2014 - Major upgrades to the tactical air navigation system (TACAN) used by military aircraft are delivered three years ahead of schedule, yield $22 million in cost savings and enhance system efficiency, reliability and capacity.
Until 2011, the Navy used vacuum tube technology for providing navigation information to aircraft. The TACAN system developed in the 1950s provided bearing and slant-range distance to the aircraft from more than 200 ships and 41 shore stations.
“At that time, the Naval Air Traffic Management Systems Program Office (PMA-213), began a full scale modernization effort to update TACAN systems for the entire fleet over the next several years,” said Capt. Darrell Lack, PMA-213 program manager. “Every airborne crew needs the confidence to find their way on a mission and know they can navigate home; especially those conducting their entire missions either over water or over hostile territory.”
PMA-213 manages two variants of the TACAN system — the AN/URN-25 (in service since 1978) and the AN/URN-32.
“The AN/URN-32 replaces the AN/URN-25 vacuum tube technology with modern, digital, solid state technology. If you were to look inside the AN/URN-25 TACAN, you would see a system consisting of wire bundles and vacuum tubes,” Lack added. “If you look inside the AN/URN-32, it resembles the inside of a home computer and has proven much more reliable and easier to maintain. In addition, the AN/URN-32 uses a software-based operating system that will ease future modifications and system upgrades.”
The AN/URN-32 system also delivers the same distance and azimuth coverage as the older AN/URN-25 system, but is capable of providing simultaneous information to 250 aircraft rather than 100, Lack stated.
“Additionally, system warm-up time has been reduced to one minute from half an hour, and the mean time between failures has been dramatically improved from 4,819 hours to more than 11,111 hours,” Lack said. “At 1,055 pounds, the new system weighs 500 pounds less than the one it replaces. The AN/URN-32 is currently installed at 29 shore stations and on 14 ships, and provides an operational availability of 99 percent. This is a vast improvement over the AN/URN-25’s 68 percent operational availability.”
In today’s constrained fiscal environment, the AN/URN32 also provides welcome relief. Each new system has reduced annual operating costs by $50,000 and requires 117 fewer maintenance hours per year, Lack noted.
“These combined savings enable the Navy to recoup the initial $100,000 investment for an AN/URN-32 upgrade in less than two years,” Lack said. “The annual savings will continue to accrue at $50,000 per AN/URN-32 system in service, saving the Navy millions in the years ahead.”