I don't understand the Navy's thinking in regard to non-carrier capable aircraft. To me this makes no sense. to me. It will be cheaper to practice carrier landings in trainer aircraft than would be in a strike fighter.
But it's even cheaper to practice landings in trainer aircraft on shore-based bases only and forego carrier landing training completely.
ThePointBlank already covered the technology that makes this possible but it had been something the Navy had been contemplating for decades as carrier landings are expensive, regardless what aircraft used. I believe prior to MAGIC CARPET it was an attitude of "hope that shore-based training is enough and for the best" but needless to say MAGIC CARPET will be a big help.
I imagine this will be my last post for a long while at least due to actions in other threads that, yes, I am very proud of.
really? what standard runway is going to duplicate traps on a rolling deck in a seagoing condition? All of this Automatic approach equipment they want to develop? Isn't worth a hill of beans if a Pilot can't hitvthe deck at night or in Bad weather. Landing ON a Carrier is what sets Navy pilots apart from the Air Force. Avionics might help but NOTHING can make it Easy.
MAGIC CARPET is currently in it's initial fielding right now, and this is the best description I've found on how it works:https://news.usni.org/2016/06/30/navys- ... lding-fall
MAGIC CARPET accomplishes three things through a software-only change to the airplane, with no changes whatsoever needed to the carrier receiving the fighters.
Capt. David Kindley, F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Manager in the Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft, explained that pilots approaching the carrier focus on three things: watching their lineup, with the goal being to catch the third of four wires in the aircraft arresting gear; angle of attack, needed to ensure the tailhook on the back of the plane catches a wire; and speed. Even if a pilot begins his approach to the ship perfectly, every little adjustment to maintain that path to the ship requires counter-adjustments in other areas – “just dozens of corrections, tiny corrections, that I’m making” for the final 18 seconds, called “flying on the ball.”
The Super Hornets and Growlers were built with digital flight controls, and some automation was built into the system from the start.
“We call it a living wing, you see the wing doing this (adjusting itself) all the time because I told it not to roll, and so any disturbance in the air mass that would make me roll, the airplane will compensate automatically,” Kindley explained, demonstrating the dynamic wing movement with his hands.
“So what we’ve basically done is taken that idea and applied it to landing, because I know most of the time I’m going to fly a 3-degree glideslope.”
When MAGIC CARPET is engaged and put into “delta path mode,” the plane will fly on a 3-degree glideslope downwards regardless of wind and other conditions outside. Even when the plane flies through the burble, or disturbed air behind the aircraft carrier’s island, the plane reacts and continues on its planned glideslope.
Then, MAGIC CARPET allows for more intuitive and much less cumbersome adjustments to that flight path by decoupling roll from yaw from pitch, and instead creating a single input that affects the ultimate goal – the airplane’s flight path. The pilot can make a little correction to the flight path using the stick and then simply let go of the stick to stay on that new path.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Kindley said. If a pilot is coming in high, “you just push the stick forward and then let go, and it stops itself on glideslope. Same thing when I’m below glideslope, you just pull the stick back and then let go. So instead of making multiple corrections with the throttle and stick to affect glideslope, I’ve made one and then let go.”
The same is true for side-to-side corrections – the pilot adjusts and then lets go of the stick to maintain the new direction, with the plane always keeping that same 3-degree glideslope for a smooth landing on the carrier flight deck.
Finally, MAGIC CARPET calculates the movement of the carrier as it sails through the water and precisely understands where the landing area will be by the time the fighter gets to it. Today, pilots have to constantly guess the velocity vector, Kindley said, and find themselves “spotting the deck” – which often times puts them too low and may cause the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) on the flight deck to wave them off.
With this new tool, “we can look at how fast the ship is moving, it’s not a hard math problem – if I know how fast the ship is moving here then I can figure out how fast the runway is moving to the right, and so I can just, I go into delta path mode and we have a different symbol, velocity vector goes away and it actually looks like a little landing area. So no kidding, all you do is you put the landing area on the landing area, and then you let go. It’s really that simple.”
Ultimately, Kindley said, MAGIC CARPET “makes it so the plane is working for you instead of against you” while landing.
Test Pilots’ Perspective
Navy pilots see landing on the aircraft carrier as an administrative task: “It’s like filling out paperwork, you have to do it in order to do what you really want to do,” Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick, a test pilot in the carrier suitability flight test department in the VX-23 Air Test and Evaluation Squadron, told reporters after testing wrapped up.
For as uninteresting a task as pilots consider landing – it allows a brief respite for the pilot and a chance to refuel and rearm the plane before going back out to continue the mission – carrier landings are among the most dangerous things a pilot will do.
Using the “closest alligator to the canoe” as an analogy – of all the dangers, he’s most concerned about fending off the one nearest to him so he can survive a bit longer – Dominick said “when we are not at war, the closest alligator to the canoe, to me, to threatening what we’re going to do and the risk we take, is landing aboard the ship. It’s dangerous, it’s every day regardless of whether we’re at war or not at war. … After all of the stress of that combat mission, where people are yelling and things are going on and bombs are getting dropped, you still have to come back to this really really dangerous thing. So will this change carrier aviation? Yes. We can start focusing more time and training to focus on that other mission because this closer alligator to the canoe has been subdued.”
Dominick, who has 11 years of flight experience in the Navy, said that a pilot’s time flying on the ball is considered “sacrosanct.” No one will talk to the pilot over the radio during that time except for the LSO on the flight deck to keep the pilot safe – but otherwise, everyone knows the pilot needs total silence to focus on the task at hand.
During MAGIC CARPET testing, though – two three-hour periods a day from June 23 to 27 – “now with this system, when we’re flying the ball, we are talking the entire way down about exactly what we’re seeing. … We’re talking to the engineers real time all the way to touchdown.”
Kindley said the average pilot makes 200 to 300 corrections in the final 18 seconds before landing. With MAGIC CARPET, test data showed the first-timers making about 20 corrections while flying on the ball, with that figure dropping below 10 once the pilots got used to the system.
Test pilot Lt. Christopher Montague explained that decrease in rapid-fire movements in basic terms. When the testing first started, the pilots came in to the carrier with a “nominal approach,” following the basic parameters pilots are taught to aim for as they begin their approach. After seeing how MAGIC CARPET responded, the pilots then began off-nominal approaches – coming in too high or low, too fast or slow, overshooting or undershooting the runway – “stressing the system, so you force yourself in there to make some aggressive inputs” before successfully landing.
During one pass that Montague meant to overshoot but accidentally significantly overshot, “I probably would have been told to wave off before I even started my approach. As I was coming through, Paddles (the LSO) probably would have said, wave off wave off, maybe take it up the starboard side of the ship, which would have been very embarrassing for me. So, however, I didn’t, I stuck with it (using MAGIC CARPET) … and I landed with the center ball back on center line with about four or five seconds left to go. So it was pretty eye-opening to me, the power of the system. And that was loaded with about as much asymmetry on the aircraft as we could,” meaning one wing was fully loaded with ordnance or fuel and the other was empty, as a way of stressing the system as much as the testers could.
In that scenario, without MAGIC CARPET “the throttles would have been going anywhere between idle and full power and hopefully not into after burner. But I would have been, we sometimes call it sawing logs, I would have been doing that all over the place,” Montague said. With MAGIC CARPET, “I think it’s probably reasonable to say probably at least 50 percent less control inputs. And that was on way off-nominal,” he said, with more nominal approaches resulting in even fewer control inputs while on the ball.
“I am still uncomfortable with how few inputs I’m making,” Dominick said, noting it can feel a little counter to all the years of training and experience at first, but the system has earned his trust – particularly once he started the intentionally off-nominal passes.
Dominick said it was important to keep in mind that MAGIC CARPET is not an automated landing system – the pilots are still flying the plane, and human error and bad weather conditions will still make carrier landings risky. But, he said, “we just changed the way you control the airplane – we made it respond faster and better.”
With the system, carrier pilots were routinely hitting the target between the second and third wire within 18 feet about 66% of the time; in contrast, the previous benchmark was hitting the target between the second and third wire within 40 feet about 66% of the time.
The F-35C has a very similar system in place called Integrated Direct Lift Control (IDLC). IDLC allows the F-35's avionics to assist the pilot in making glide slope adjustments during the carrier approach by adjusting the flaps to adjust the amount of lift to maintain the glide slope. Coupled to the auto throttle, this allows for a very precise carrier landing to be accomplished.
Together, these systems are also being combined with the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) which is a differential GPS-based precision landing system that guides aircraft to precision landings in all weather and surface conditions. Carriers and the LHA's and LHD's are all being outfitted with JPALS right now.