Naval Air: Automated Carrier Landings



September 28, 2008: The U.S. Navy has paid Raytheon corporation $233 million to complete work on an aircraft carrier version of JPALS (Joint Precision Approach and Landing System). This is a GPS based system that uses an enhanced (via local equipment) GPS signal so that aircraft can land at night or in bad weather. JPALS is accurate to within one or two feet. The navy initially sought to use JPALS for helicopter operations on non-carriers (destroyers and cruisers). But the new version will emphasize carrier use. This is also an essential technology to make it possible for UAVs to operate on carriers.

There is already a civilian version of JPALS in use. What makes JPALS unique is the use of encrypted signals, and for ship use, low strength signals (so the ships cannot be detected by enemy forces looking for transmissions). JPALS is also portable, so it can be moved and set up quickly. The civilian versions of this technology are installed at airports as a permanent part of the infrastructure.