An initial operational capability, comprising eleven military controller positions and two supervisory positions, has been established between the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)’s Nieuw Milligen Air Operations Control Station (AOCS) and the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC)’s air traffic control system.
One RNLAF radar approach control sector and two arrival sectors (Woensdrecht and Gilze Rijen) have switched to the extension of the MUAC system. For the first time, Dutch military controllers can use the data generated by the MUAC system (e.g. correlated aircraft tracks and flight plans) to control some of the densest and most complex airspace in the world. This entails MUAC processing information for approach and tower control alongside upper airspace operations.
This development is part of the Shared ATS System (SAS) project, a pioneering project of ATM data services provided by one air navigation service provider to the benefit of another one in the core area of Europe. The project is governed by a Cooperation Agreement between the Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands and EUROCONTROL and is conducted in a true spirit of partnership. Under the terms of the Agreement, MUAC makes the relevant correlated radar and flight plan data available to the RNLAF military ATC centre at AOCS Nieuw Milligen and seven RNLAF airbases. This is done by extending the operational MUAC air traffic control system, establishing a ‘virtual centre’ across the various RNLAF sites.
For MUAC and the RNLAF, using a shared picture brings certainty on a common view of the traffic. The primary benefit of the new arrangement is therefore greater safety brought by a closer understanding between military and civil controllers. Where previously verbal coordination procedures ensured synchronisation of views, this is now automated, which also means an important reduction in workload for both supervisors and controllers at both sites. The SAS project also provides important efficiency gains as civil controllers are aware of the status of the military areas and the intentions of the military aircraft operating in these areas, enabling more effective capacity management. In terms of cost-efficiency, too, the benefits of the SAS are considerable. As MUAC facilities are upgraded and /or developed to SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) standards, the technical improvements will automatically flow to the RNLAF virtual military centre served from MUAC.
On 14 December 2012, a second radar approach control sector will connect to the SAS system. In the subsequent phase, the third radar approach control sector will use the SAS system in March 2013. Full operational capability is planned for October 2013, with RNLAF en-route, approach and tower control operations using the SAS system. The former RNLAF systems (PHAROS and AUTOTRAC) will then be decommissioned.
The implementation of such a virtual centre hosted within the operational system of another facility paves the way for further harmonisation in air traffic management. It is a de-facto solution for the defragmentation required in the Single European Sky.
Date: Dec 12, 2012