The Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, also known as JPALS, made by Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, is now deployed on two international platforms.
The system will be used to perform joint operations with the U.S. Marine Corps aboard the UK Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08). It is also installed on the ITS Cavour, an Italian aircraft carrier, the flagship of the Marina Militare, to support their F-35 Lightning II squadron.
JPALS, a differential GPS precision landing system, guides aircraft onto carriers and amphibious assault ships in all weather and surface conditions. The system is being deployed on all U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships. All F-35 Lightning II aircraft are equipped with JPALS capability, and the system is currently being used on the F-35B Lightning II and F-35C Lightning II.
«The Cavour JPALS is the first system to be permanently installed on a foreign ship», said Denis Donohue, vice president of Communications & Airspace Management Systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. «JPALS will add significant mission capabilities for our international allies and partners who are flying the F-35 Lightning II».
The system has completed flight testing and Category I and II certifications in preparation for deployments.
The U.S. Navy declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) on May 4, signaling the system’s ready to provide precision approach and landing capabilities to tactical carrier aircraft at sea in support of naval aviation operations worldwide.
JPALS is a global positioning system-based system that integrates with shipboard air traffic control and landing system architectures to guide fixed-wing tactical carrier aircraft with pinpoint approach and landings on nuclear aircraft carriers (CVN) and amphibious assault ships (LHA/LHD) in all weather and sea surface conditions.
«JPALS has reached a historic milestone, which supports our requirement to deliver, operate and maintain a Navy with a focus on our core roles of sea control and power projection», said Commander Jeff «Doogie» Dugard, Director of the Naval Airspace and Air Traffic Control Standards and Evaluation Agency. Dugard worked closely with the Naval Air Traffic Management Systems Program Office (PMA)-213 to ensure all requirements were met to demonstrate that JPALS will safely and effectively support U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviation at sea.
The initial operational capability was declared by Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, Director Air Warfare Division, N98, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, following the successful installation, integration and flight certification of the first JPALS production unit aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in December 2020. After the flight certification, the JPALS team continued working with the Navy’s operational test community to demonstrate that the F-35C could effectively conduct at-sea precision approaches to the flight deck, and that adequate manning, training and sustainment infrastructure were in place to support and sustain JPALS operations while globally deployed.
The JPALS IOC declaration is the culmination of many years of system development and testing activities that began in 2008. The JPALS team has successfully provided a critical combat capability to the U.S. Naval Fleet, delivering the IOC capability nearly a year ahead of the planned threshold while overcoming many challenges including delivering, installing, testing and certifying systems during a persistent global pandemic.
«The achievement of JPALS IOC is a positive reflection on the hard work, innovation and resilience from a dedicated team of government and industry professionals who have developed and fielded this critical capability to the Warfighters», said Captain Kevin Watkins, PMA-213 program manager.
JPALS has been supporting F-35B Lightning II deployments on LH-class amphibious assault ships with an early operational capability since 2016, and will now provide the all-weather, precision navigation, approach and landing capability for all F-35C Lightning II deployments on CVNs as well. JPALS will also support future operations with the Navy’s unmanned MQ-25A Stingray aboard CVNs.
Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business delivered the first production unit of the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, or JPALS, to the U.S. Navy 20 days ahead of schedule. This delivery follows the completion of 12 engineering development models. JPALS, a differential GPS precision landing system, guides aircraft onto carriers and amphibious assault ships in all weather and surface conditions and is integrated on the F-35.
«Landing a 15-ton fighter jet flying at hundreds of knots per hour on an aircraft carrier in rolling seas is daunting to say the least», says Matt Gilligan, vice president, Raytheon Intelligence & Space. «JPALS makes those landings simpler, safer and more precise. JPALS gives the Navy the landing accuracy it needs every time regardless of conditions. It is more than an approach and landing system – it is a safety system».
JPALS uses an encrypted datalink to connect software and receiver hardware on the aircraft to an array of GPS sensors, mast-mounted antennas and shipboard equipment, to provide surveillance, ship-relative navigation and precision approach and landing in and around the carrier-controlled airspace.
Applications for JPALS extend beyond the seas. The system has the potential to help expeditionary forces land manned and unmanned aircraft safely in any condition, anywhere. An expeditionary JPALS (eJPALS) could be used for special operations missions or guiding aircraft during humanitarian relief efforts. eJPALS would provide straight, curved and multi-segmented precision approach capabilities and has the capacity to support up to 50 different approaches to touchdown points within a 20-nautical-mile radius of the system.