US Air Force acquires man-portable TACAN systems from Thales

Source: US Air Force

The US Air Force recently signed a contract with Thales to purchase six man-portable Tactical Air Navigation systems to be used overseas.

Chief Master Sgt. Steven Bauch, US Air Forces in Europe’s functional manager for radar, airfield and weather systems, said the TACAN technology provides valuable benefits, and acquiring the systems is a win for the Air Force.



“The acquisition of man-portable TACAN systems represents a significant step forward for the US Air Force in terms of enhancing aircraft flight safety and improving mission effectiveness,” Bauch said. “By signing the contract with Thales, the Air Force is demonstrating its commitment to providing its pilots with the best possible tools to ensure mission success.”

TACAN systems have been around for many decades, even as far back as the Vietnam era, and provide non-precision approach and en route capabilities. In essentially serves as a lighthouse in the sky that provides pilots directional and distance navigational aid information to an exact location critical during times of low visibility. The devices allow pilots to accurately determine their aircraft’s position, as well as the direction and distance to a specific point, through the use of radio signals that are transmitted from a ground station to the aircraft’s onboard receiver.

One of the key benefits of man-portable TACAN systems is their ability to provide precise navigation information in real-time. This is particularly important in areas where GPS signals may be compromised or unavailable, such as in mountainous terrain or in the presence of electronic jamming. By using TACAN, pilots can maintain accurate situational awareness and ensure that they are on the correct course at all times.

Another advantage of man-portable TACAN systems is their portability. These devices can be easily transported and set up in remote locations, allowing pilots to quickly establish a navigation reference point. This is particularly useful for special operations forces, who often operate in austere environments where traditional navigation aids may not be available.

Bauch said his job is to make sure his bases have the right equipment, manning and all the tools they need so aircraft can safely land and take off. Recognizing how important man-portable TACAN systems would be in enhancing flight safety, he pitched the need and the Air Force approved funding to purchase the units.

“Man-portable TACAN systems are a vital tool for military pilots,” Bauch said. “They will provide the Air Force the continued ability to rapidly deploy forces in all weather conditions to ensure freedom of movement, commitment to our partners and demonstration of our resolve.”

Each system will cost approximately USD 600,000. The first system will be delivered in December and it will be immediately deployed.

Bauch and others from the USAFE Headquarters at Ramstein Air Base Germany recently toured the Thales facility in Salt Lake City to learn more about the TACAN systems and the building where they will be assembled. Bauch said he was impressed with the facility and looks forward to a positive working relationship with the Thales team throughout the life of the contract.



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