TACAN System Undergoes Extensive Upgrades

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.

Capt. Darrell Lack, PMA-213 program manager, said:

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.

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

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

Lack continued:

If you were to look inside the AN/URN-25 TACAN, you would see a system consisting of wire bundles and vacuum tubes. 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.

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 annual savings will continue to accrue at $50,000 per AN/URN-32 system in service, saving the Navy millions in the years ahead.

Press release, Image: US Navy

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