The UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) is set to trial a digital air traffic control tower at RAF Lossiemouth airbase, the future home of the submarine-hunting P-8 Poseidon aircraft.
Under a single-source experimental project, RAF Lossiemouth will see the development of a digital air traffic control (ATC) tower operational concept demonstrator (OCD) by Saab’s UK division.
An RAF spokesperson told Air Force Technology that construction of the concept digital ATC would begin in April this year and would include the laying of a concrete pad and siting of necessary antenna equipment.
Between April and September, the RAF plans to refine the operating concept for the digital ATC system to ‘optimise performance’.
At current the RAF said that it expects to see the operational concept working by late 2020, meaning the existing air traffic control tower could be extended to account for the new system.
The Lossiemouth project is separate from the Defence Equipment and Support Project Marshall, which aims to invest in new air traffic control systems, radar displays, radios and communication systems through to the late 2030s.
RAF Lossiemouth currently serves as one of the air force’s two Quick Reaction Alert stations, along with RAF Coningsby, to protect UK air space.
The airbase is currently undergoing major development as it gears up to host the UK’s fleet of new P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft. Works include the widening and resurfacing of runways, and the construction of specialised P-8 Poseidon storage facilities. Resurfacing works are due to be completed by the spring of 2021.
The first of the UK’s nine Poseidon aircraft arrived in Scotland last month and is temporarily based at Kinloss Barracks.
A number of commercial airports use digital air traffic control towers; however, Lossiemouth will become the first RAF facility to utilise the technology.
Under the current concept air traffic controllers would still be based at RAF Lossiemouth rather than from a remote location, but they would not work from a traditional air traffic control tower.