News: Marines demonstrate air traffic system to PAF at PHIBLEX 14
Story by Lance Cpl. Jose Lujano
CLARK AIR FIELD, PAMPANGA, Republic of the Philippines—“On glide path, on course” is the radio call that pilots want to hear from Marines operating the air traffic navigational, integration and coordination system when they are landing in poor weather with limited visibility.
Air traffic controllers use the mobile system to guide a pilot through their final approach to the runway when visibility is poor.
U.S. Marines demonstrated the system’s capabilities to their Philippine counterparts Oct. 4 at Clark Air Field, Pampanga, Republic of the Philippines during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2014. Philippine and U.S. Marines train side-by-side during PHIBLEX 14 to ensure they are capable of working together effectively to conduct humanitarian assistance and regional security operations.
The training’s focus was to demonstrate how the air traffic system operates and its capabilities, according to U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Lee A. Pugh, a radar chief with Marine Air Control Squadron 4, currently assigned to the aviation combat element, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“This system allows us to contact incoming and outgoing aircraft, analyze flight patterns with superior precision, and better guarantee the aircraft and crews’ safety,” said Pugh.
The system had not been used in a year, so it was the first time for many of the Marines and Philippine airmen to work with the system.
“This system can really make it easy for a lot of countries in the Asia-Pacific region because the weather can get really nasty out here, and we have to make sure that our planes, pilots and crews get home safely,” according to Philippine Air Force Maj. Hazel Bracamonte, an air traffic control officer with the Philippine Air Force.
The components that make up the system are a precision approach radar system, an air-surveillance radar system and self-sufficient portable electric units and radios, according to Pugh.
The highly mobile system is mounted on multipurpose-tactical vehicles, enhancing the unit’s expeditionary capabilities.
“We are able to pack up and move from one place to another wasting no valuable time,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Nickloas A. Hill, an air traffic control radar technician with MACS-4. “It’s a vital tool to be deployed for any strategic environment, and can be established anywhere aircraft can land. All due to the (system’s) mobility.”
The system ensures that the Marine Corps can respond to crises around the world, whether they are humanitarian assistance, disaster relief or combat operations, according to Hill.
“For instance, the (system) grants the Corps with on the spot air surveillance, which is valuable to (forward operating bases), major air bases and expeditionary airfields,” said Hill. “Not only does it bring precision approach abilities to air fields, but also to Marine Air-Ground Task Force joint and combined operations.”
Safety is paramount and the system enhances the well-being of aircraft and passengers.
“The system provides a rapid response,” said Pugh. “When a pilot cannot see the ground, due to inclement weather, we could get them to land safely on a 3 foot-by-3 foot square.”
Being able to train, learn and see new capabilities is always good, according to Bracamonte, who would like to participate in future PHIBLEX exercises.
“Not only is the training good, but it was a great experience for me and some of the U.S. Marines seeing this system operate for our first time,” said Bracamonte.
The recurrence of PHIBLEX, now in its 30th year, demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. and Republic of the Philippines to mutual security and their longtime partnership.