PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA --
Airmen from the 378th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron recently installed a Deployable Tactical Air Navigation (D-TACAN) at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The TACAN is a navigational aid to help pilots obtain their bearing and distance from the navigational aid or airport.
“The issue we were facing here at PSAB was the on-station TACAN was outdated and was no longer commercially supported with available parts,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Eresman, 378th EOSS Air Traffic Control radar chief controller.
Eresman added that the previous equipment did not meet the necessary range to provide pilots their positional information as far out as needed.
“Pilots could pick up the TACAN signal a few short miles from the field in some areas, but we were controlling aircraft to intercept the final approach course at a greater distance than the equipment could provide,” said Eresman. “We recognized this and reached out to U.S. Air Force Central Command and the Regional Maintenance Center (RMC) to install a deployable replacement.”
What arrived was a $1.6 million, 24 foot-long, 20-thousand-pound trailer.
“This project was totally outside of my comfort zone. As an air traffic controller, I’m typically the end user of the TACAN to get aircraft where they need to be, not one that installs them,” said Eresman. “Luckily with my prior experience and knowledge in terminal instrument procedures, my team and I were confident enough when tasked with the setup and installation of the D-TACAN.”
Terminal instrument procedures set the standards for operations regarding instrument flight rules for any flights to and from civil and military airports. Usually, there are specific Airmen from a designated career field to handle the installation of this instrument. With none at Prince Sultan Air Base, it was up to the crew here.
Eresman and his team took on the project from start to finish while working closely with the RMC to find a site to set up the unit, get it surveyed, leveled, and prepared. The TACAN needed to align with true North as closely as possible to provide pilots accurate information.
After a pad was created by the 378th Civil Engineering Squadron and the equipment was aligned and leveled, the team coordinated with the 378th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants section for daily fuel deliveries to the generator that powers the TACAN.
After the three-day set up and initial configuration, the team was ready to power up.
“When we finally got power to it, the sun had set and it was dark out. The equipment turned on and all these red lights came on up top,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Matlock, 378th EOSS ATC watch supervisor. “It was great knowing we had this big piece of equipment shipped to us, and in a short time, our team had it up and running ready to communicate with pilots.”
Matlock said subsequent tests done by pilots from the 44th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron were positive, with pilots reporting strong signal coverage much further than the older equipment.
This new navigational aid allows air traffic controllers and the pilots they coordinate with to continue air operations in the region, providing agile combat employment to maintain air superiority against any threat.