By Rob Koon
NAVAIR Public Affairs and the Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment program office
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. - A new type of aircraft arresting gear control system will help our warfighters land on our aircraft carriers. The new arresting gear control system is called the Advanced Recovery Control System (ARC). The ARC replaces the mechanical systems and their associated controls used today with state-of-the-art arresting gear digital control system technology. ARC will be installed on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in 2007 during the ships next scheduled maintenance period.
In this age of computers and digital technology, aircraft carrier arresting gear systems have remained strictly mechanical in nature. That scenario is about to change with the introduction of the ARC, said Capt. Stephen Rorke, the program manger for aircraft launch and recovery equipment, PMA-251. ARC provides built-in diagnostics and arresting gear engine health monitoring capability, reduces supply and maintenance needs and extends the life of the current arresting gear.
Two complete prototype systems were built and installed at Naval Air Systems Command Lakehurst, NJ test sites. The environmental testing was done at the Naval Air Systems Command Lakehurst NJ facilities, and cycle-testing was conducted at Northrop Grumman facilities. More than six hundred simulated arrested landings, using a deadload, were done at the Lakehurst Jet Car Track site in the development process proving the new control system worked properly and was safe to use.
A deadload is basically a rolling weight used to simulate different aircraft for testing purposes. The deadload is shot down a 1-1/4 mile track (that looks like a railroad track) using up to four jet engines. The deadload is equipped with an aircraft tailhook and after it is released from the engines, it hooks on to the arresting wire just like on an aircraft carrier. Weight can be added and speed is varied depending on the number of engines and settings.
After completing developmental testing at the Jet Car Test Site, aircraft compatibility developmental testing at the Lakehurst Runway Arrested Landing Site (RALS) began. Approximately three hundred aircraft arrested landings, using T-45, F/A-18C/D, F/A-18E/F and EA-18G test-instrumented aircraft, were performed at the RALS to show that the new arresting gear control system could work seamlessly with different aircraft.
Feedback from the aircrews involved in the testing confirmed that the system worked during both normal arrested landings and in fail-safe operations. This was also the first time the ARC was operated by Fleet sailors who provided valuable feedback in determining the final control system configuration to be delivered to the Fleet.
The ARC has a complete back-up emergency fail-safe system to ensure a safe landing in the event any one of a number of components failed during an arrested landing. The systems configuration was changed during the test program to withstand the unique vibration environment aboard an aircraft carrier and to better package the entire unit. The remaining hardware is to be completed and delivered within the next five years.
Ken Lee, the deputy program manager for recovery systems, aircraft launch and recovery equipment, PMA-251, hailed the introduction of ARC by noting that, The Advanced Recovery Control System provides the Fleet, for the first time, a state of the art digital control system that will help improve performance and extend the operational service life of the current MK7 arresting gear.
The ARC system has successfully arrested the landings of all current and future Navy and Marine Corps carrier based aircraft like the T-45, E-2C+, F/A-18C/D, F/A-18E/F, EA-18G, S-3, and EA-6B aircraft.