Navy Using New System to Remotely Control Fighter Jets

Navy Using New System to Remotely Control Fighter Jets

By Debbie Gregory.


Not to be confused with the arcade game company, the United States Navy is testing a new system called the ATARI, which stands for aircraft terminal approach remote inceptor. ATARI hands control of an aircraft that’s on approach to an aircraft carrier over to the Landing Signals Officer (LSO).


Developed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), ATARI was originally tested in a Learjet in 2016, performing shore-based low approaches. In 2017, F/A-18s were fitted with the technology and after extensive testing and quality assurance, was ready to be tested at sea..This was done for the first time in March on the on USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).


“I was really impressed with LSO’s ability get me to touch down,” said Lt. John Marino, a carrier suitability pilot from the “Salty Dogs” of Air test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, and the first pilot to land on a flight deck using ATARI. “There was some nervousness because the sea state was so bad,” said Marino. “Back on the airfield, testing was benign.”


Despite the tough conditions, the ATARI performed well.


“The deck was pitching significantly and yawing and rolling,” said Naval Air Systems Command engineer Buddy Denham, the creator of ATARI. “It was particularly difficult to land that day, and we showed it’s possible to use this system even when the conditions aren’t ideal.


LSOs are capable of taking over an aircraft from up to five miles away using the ATARI system, a potential method for recovering an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by utilizing an LSO’s ability to observe and fix glideslope and lineup errors. This provides a relatively inexpensive backup system in the event an LSO needs on to step in and use their expertise and training to safely guide an aircraft.


“You’re effectively using little joystick controllers to guide a 40,000 lbs. airplane, and it’s almost like you’re playing a video game,” Denham said.