US Navy’s Abraham Lincoln tests ATARI

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) has tested a system designed to remotely land aircraft on a carrier, the US Navy informed. 

The aircraft terminal approach remote inceptor (ATARI) was, for the first time ever, demonstrated during a touch-and-go on an aircraft carrier while conducting carrier qualifications and flight testing aboard Abraham Lincoln.

ATARI gives landing signal officers (LSOs) the ability to take over and maneuver aircraft during recovery operations.

Developed at Naval Air station Patuxent River, Maryland by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), ATARI was originally been tested in a Learjet in 2016, performing shore-based low approaches. In 2017, F/A-18s were fitted with this technology and after extensive testing and quality assurance, VX-23 was confident enough to test their system at-sea.

LSOs are capable of taking over an aircraft from up to five miles away using the ATARI. The system demonstrates a potential method for recovering an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by using the LSO’s ability to observe and fix glideslope and lineup errors. Though not intended to be a primary method for recovering aircraft, it does provide a relatively inexpensive backup system in the case and an LSO needs on to step in and use their expertise and training to safely guide an aircraft.

Along with the ATARI, a van outfitted with the ATARI system was brought aboard and setup behind the LSO platform to allow the engineers to watch the approaches in real-time, monitor safety-of-flight data and ensure passes were going smoothly. The van recorded flight data for engineers to analyze later and allowed VX-23 to test their system without having to install it.

“We don’t have unmanned carrier-based vehicles in the fleet today, but they are coming soon. This is a potential alternative landing method and our system performed well,” Dan Shafer, a NAVAIR air vehicle engineer, commented.

ATARI uses a joystick to control a UAV, or in this case for testing purposes, an F/A-18 outfitted with the system and a safety pilot sitting in the cockpit. The LSOs use the joysticks to make corrections and safely land the aircraft on the flight deck.

The ATARI testing was conducted over the course of two days in conjunction with carrier qualifications. Though not currently slated for fleet-wide implementation, yet the successful give it potential for future application. The ATARI engineers will analyze the data collected aboard Abraham Lincoln and make adjustments for further at-sea testing.