U.S. Navy Completes Precision Approach and Landing System (PALS) Certification on USS Essex

The U.S. Navy Naval Air Traffic Management Systems Program Office (PMA-213) completed the precision approach and landing system (PALS) certification on Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock USS Essex (LHD 2) in April.

“Thanks to dedicated, knowledgeable personnel who persevered with limited resources, changing ship schedules and the unseen specter of Coronavirus we are all coping with in our daily lives, we’ve successfully completed USS Essex’s PALS certification,” said Cmdr. Jarrod Hair, PMA-213 SHIP Air Traffic Management (ATM) deputy program manager.

After achieving first flight day confirmations for three USS Essex PALS systems: the AN/SPN-35 Precision Approach Landing System (PALS), the AN/SPN-41 Instrument Carrier Landing System (ICLS), and the AN/USN-3 Joint Precision and Approach Landing Systems (JPALS), teams from Naval Air Warfare Center Webster Outlying Field (NAWCAD WOLF) Atlantic Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems (ATC&LS), Naval Test Wing ATC&LS Test, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 were able to align the systems to support the warfighter.

MH-60S on USS Essex
An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, attached to the U.S. Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 “Blackjacks”, sits on the flight deck of the Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock USS Essex (LHD 2) during flight operations in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Due to the complex nature of the systems, it is a rare occasion when a system does not need adjustment between flights; this time we had rose to the challenge and had all three [PALS systems] ready on the first day,” said Hair. “Their efforts have ensured a U.S. Navy capital ship’s PALS capability is available to support their primary mission as the flagship of an Amphibious Ready Group.”

The PMA-213 International Landing System (ILS) and NAWCAD WOLF have also begun the installation of AN/USN-3 and AN/SPN-41 landing systems aboard the Italian Navy aircraft carrier, ITS Cavour, despite restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The program schedule was threatened when COVID-19 travel restrictions were enacted,” said Casey Edinger, PMA-213 International Programs deputy program manager. “U.S. personnel typically provide onsite technical assistance and oversight for the installation of both systems. Since Italy was the European hotspot for the outbreak, the team was already preparing contingency plans when the DOD suspended all travel.”

With onsite technical assistance no longer advisable, the teams looked to provide remote technical assistance. PMA-213 along with NAWCAD WOLF and contract support service personnel created a first-of-a-its kind Virtual Install Technical Assistance Guide for the AN/USN-3 and the AN/SPN-41, which serves as a checklist for both U.S. and Foreign Military Sales shipyard installers.

“This critical time calls for a creative solution; therefore, this is the first Virtual Install Technical Assistance of an Aircraft Carrier Landing System on a foreign ship,” said Clay Smeal, PMA-213 Landing Systems deputy case manager. “This guide enables all installations to proceed on schedule.”

To ensure a successful install and subsequent PALS certification on ITS Cavour, PMA-213 holds daily communications with the ship to monitor progress and mitigate technical issues.

This guide is currently in use for the ITS Cavour AN/USN-3 and AN/SPN-41 installs and may also be used for future installations on the United Kingdom’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, if COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.



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