(Image courtesy: U.S. Air Force)

Raytheon looks to upgrade carrier landing system for ground use

The Raytheon Company (Raytheon), based out of Waltham, Massachusetts, is currently paying for a Joint Precision Approach and Landing Systems (JPALS) software upgrade with independent research and development funds. The company hopes to convince the U.S. Air Force to use JPALS – a system used to help aircraft land on aircraft carrier decks – in its expeditionary land operations.

JPALS is a differential precision landing system that global positioning system (GPS) data to guide aircraft onto aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships in all weather and sea surface conditions up to the rough waters – or four-meter waves – of “Sea State 5.” The system uses an encrypted, jam-proof data link to connect to software and receiver hardware on the aircraft and an array of GPS sensors, mast-mounted antennas, and equipment on the ship.


A Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II comes in for a landing on USS George Washington (CVN-73) aircraft carrier during F-35C Development Test III (Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin/Dane Wiedmann)


The system enhances operations in harsh environments, giving aircraft that capability to perform precision landings in challenging terrain conditions. Raytheon believes the U.S Air Force could benefit from using JPALS to support expeditionary operations, specifically those conducted by U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and Pacific Air Forces (PACAF).

For USAFE, Raytheon hopes for JPALS adoption for dispersed operations and – for PACAF – that JPALS becomes incorporated into its adaptive basing strategy, which is an approach to deploying and maneuvering assets in highly contested environments.



Raytheon is currently in talks with U.S. Air Force officials concerning a possible F-35A JPALS landing test at Edwards Air Force Base in California later this year. The F-35A – the U.S. Air Force variant of the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II multirole fighter – is already JPALS-capable like the carrier-friendly U.S. Marine Corps F-35B and U.S. Navy F-35C variants.

JPALS can support up to 50 different straight, curved, and multi-segmented precision approaches that range from 20 nautical miles to carrier deck touchdown.


Lockheed Martin F-35B Lighting II fly past the USS America (LHA-6) amphibious assault ship. (Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin)


It “mirrors the ship system, which is single-runway, single-approach,” explained U.S. Navy Rear Admiral C.J. Jaynes according to reporting by Air Force Magazine. “We want to make […] that one a multiple-runway, multiple-approach system.” 

Jaynes is executive technical advisor for precision landing systems at Raytheon Intelligence, Information, and Services.

Raytheon’s end goal is to further develop JPALS to aid aircraft approaching 20 nautical miles from a ground station.


The Air Force Magazine source article was authored by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.


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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.

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