CJTF-HOA air traffic controllers use new technology to fight terrorism

20 Feb 2003 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa has a new weapon in the fight against terrorism. The AN/TSQ - 216 Remote Landing Site Tower gives the task force an extended reach into the region, enhancing CJTF-HOA's ability to deter, disrupt and detect transnational terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

The tower is "the new thing for air traffic controllers," according to Cpl. Jorge C. Mendez, the communications chief for Marine Air Control Squadron - 2, here in support of CJTF-HOA. Introduced to the Marine Corps a little over a year ago, the expeditionary tower is mounted on the back of a high mobility multipurpose vehicle (Humvee). The RLST can comfortably accommodate two controllers and can be set up in 45 minutes.

Mendez, who hails from Miami, said, "The RLST has many capabilities which allow for the rapid, versatile deployment of air traffic control equipment to anywhere aircraft need to take off or land."

Not only is the RLST mobile and quickly set up, power for it can be supplied in two ways.

"It's powered by two diesel-run generators. The tower is said to be able to run for six hours per generator, but in field tests we've lasted up to ten hours," explained Mendez.

However, if the generators become inoperable, the Humvee can supply power for a limited amount of time.

To ensure quality communication with aircraft, the tower is equipped with very high frequency, ultra high frequency and high frequency radio bands. With the use of fiber optics, the radios can be transmitted up to a kilometer away from the tower.

Fiber optics are long, thin strands of very pure glass about the diameter of a human hair. They are arranged in bundles called optical cables and used to transmit signals over long distances.

Mendez said, "Fiber optics allow us to transmit and receive clear quality sound, so it's easier for the controllers to talk to the pilots."

Although Mendez and his fellow communications technician, Lance Cpl. Robert N. Randall, know the ins and outs of the tower, their mission is to train the air traffic controllers on the proper use and setup of the RLST.

"We've been giving the controllers training about how to work the equipment and how to put the tower together," Mendez added. "If there was a mission that required the tower, two controllers would go out. We just make sure they know how to use everything."

According to Cpl. Jeremy C. Lyon, an air traffic controller, the tower is fairly simple to construct.

"Pretty much all of the pieces are labeled where they go, so it's not hard to set up," he said. "The RLST gives us the same capabilities we have when we're back at a stationary airfield."
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