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CHIPS Articles: Navy’s Tactical Navigation System Receives Extensive Upgrades

Navy’s Tactical Navigation System Receives Extensive Upgrades
By PEO(T) Public Affairs - December 15, 2014
NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — The tactical air navigation (TACAN) system used by all military aircraft recently received extensive upgrades, bringing the system state-of-the-art functionality.

The new TACAN system, with its modern, digital, solid-state technology, replaces legacy, vacuum tube technology, which was developed in the 1950s to provide bearing and slant-range distance to aircraft for more than 200 ships and 41 shore stations.

“In 2011, the Naval Air Traffic Management Systems Program Office [PMA-213] began a full-scale modernization effort to update TACAN systems for the entire fleet,” said Capt. Darrell Lack, PMA-213 program manager. “Every aircrew needs the confidence to find their way on a mission and know they can navigate home — especially those conducting their entire missions either over water or over hostile territory.

“Our team is delivering these upgrades three years ahead of schedule, yielding $22 million in cost savings and enhancing the system’s efficiency, reliability and capacity,” he continued. “Installation of 92 systems for the shore stations was to be completed in fiscal year 2020 and now will be completed in fiscal year 2017.”

PMA-213 manages two variants of the TACAN system — the AN/URN-25 (in service since 1978) and the AN/URN-32.

“If you were to look inside the AN/URN-25 TACAN, you would see a system consisting of wire bundles and vacuum tubes,” Lack said. “If you look inside the AN/URN-32, it resembles the inside of a home computer and has proven much more reliable and easier to maintain. In addition, the AN/URN-32 uses a software-based operating system that will ease future modifications and system upgrades.”

The AN/URN-32 system also delivers the same distance and azimuth coverage as the older AN/URN-25 system, but is capable of providing simultaneous information to 250 aircraft rather than 100, Lack said.

“Additionally, system warm-up time has been reduced to one minute, from half an hour, and the mean time between failures has been dramatically improved from 4,819 hours to more than 11,111 hours,” Lack said. “At 1,055 pounds, the new system weighs 500 pounds less than the one it replaces. The AN/URN-32 is currently installed at 29 shore stations and on 14 ships, and provides an operational availability of 99 percent. This is a vast improvement over the AN/URN-25’s 68 percent operational availability.”

In today’s constrained fiscal environment, the AN/URN-32 also provides welcome relief, Lack said. Each new system has reduced annual operating costs by $50,000 and requires 117 fewer maintenance hours per year, he noted.

“These combined savings enable the Navy to recoup the initial $100,000 investment for an AN/URN-32 upgrade in less than two years,” the program manager said. “The annual savings will continue to accrue at $50,000 per AN/URN-32 system in service, saving the Navy millions in the years ahead.”

For more information, contact PEO(T) Public Affairs at (301) 757-7171.

The Navy’s new AN/URN-32 tactical air navigation (TACAN) system replaces vacuum tubes with digital technology. The oval object on the table is the antenna and behind it are the equipment racks. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy.
The Navy’s new AN/URN-32 tactical air navigation (TACAN) system replaces vacuum tubes with digital technology. The oval object on the table is the antenna and behind it are the equipment racks. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy.
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