Navy tests new air traffic system

The Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Md., recently began using an upgraded air traffic control system that station officials expect will speed up data transfers, increase data volume, improve training and enhance security.

The National Airspace System Modernization is a joint program of the Defense Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The station last month became one of the first military air stations in the Navy to upgrade to NASMOD. Eventually, all military and civilian airports will discard their aging air traffic control systems for the new system.

NASMOD includes digital airport surveillance radar to replace the analog Airport Surveillance Radio Model 8, a new air traffic controller interface called the DOD Advanced Automation System, and an information management program called the Visual Information Display System.

Kyle Rogers, NASMOD program manager of aviation for Air Traffic Control and Combat Identification Systems, said the new digital backbone allows for increased filtering and signal enhancement.

The system replaces disparate fluorescent displays with large, high-resolution color monitors that unify items, such as weather reports and security camera feeds, said Rob Bellamy, deputy program manager for shore systems.

No more simulators

NASMOD also lets controllers train on the systems they will use for air traffic control rather than on simulators.

'For the training, the only way they know that it is not live data they are controlling is that at the very top of the screen it will say training mode,' one official said.

'The old system worked, but this one works much, much better,' said Tom Dealy, head of ground electronics maintenance for the air station's Air Operations Department. 'Safety increases. Training increases. Capabilities across the board increase. Flexibility increases. Speed of data transfer increases. The amount of data we can handle increases. Everything increases.'

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