US Marines train Mobile ATC system at Yokota

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Marine Air Control Squadron 4, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, deployed a team to Yokota to practice on a mobile Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar system at a simulated deployed airfield position near the base flightline, Feb. 7.

U.S. Air Force 374th Operations Support Squadron ATC Airmen and Japan Air Self Defense Force ATC specialists from Iruma Air Base, also visited the simulated deployment site to discuss the integration of mobile and fixed radar units from partner forces in contested environments.

“We’re demonstrating our ability to rapidly deploy, set-up and maintain sortie generation in the event Yokota’s radar or ATC tower goes down,” said U.S. Marine Corps. Gunnery Sgt. Patrick Brandon, MACS-4 Company L operations chief. “Integrating with other services gives us all the ability to see how the equipment and process works, which helps everyone coordinate downfield in a joint environment.”

The Marines deployed an mobile Air Traffic Navigation, Integration and Coordination System (ATNAVICS) to provide tactical Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR), and a Precision Approach Radar (PAR), which allows for controlled aircraft landing at any functioning airfield or landing site.

These systems can be rapidly deployed using only two modified High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HUMMWV) and two trailers with power generators.

“This training environment gives our team field experience, not only in operating the radar system, but in setting up and troubleshooting it,” said Cpl. Jacob Rodriguez, MACS-4 Company L radar technician. “Marine technicians set-up and maintain a system consisting of an operations vehicle, a sensor pallet vehicle, and a command tent combination called ATNAVICS. We’re there to keep these systems running smoothly and support the flow of air traffic.”

Yokota is a vital component in maintaining the ability to support transient aircraft from the U.S. and partner nations, so maintaining the ability to have a functioning radar and air traffic control system is vital to safely operate the airfield.

“Pilots rely on us to help them land when they have bad weather conditions, low visibility, or a damaged aircraft,” Brandon said. “It requires us to be precise, so our team goes out and surveys an established site to calculate approach vectors, elevations, tree line, and building height to be able to launch and recover aircraft safely.”

Air Traffic Control standards are consistent around the world and both civilian and military forces follow the same Federal Aviation Administration standards. Military and civilian airfields alike already work together to ensure airspace safety, but information exchanges such as this ATNAVICS training increases the mutual knowledge and interoperability of their ATC programs.