by Airman 1st Class Amber Carter
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
3/13/2015 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Leaders
from the 60th Air Mobility Wing, 60th Operations Group and 60th
Operation Support Squadron met with members of the Federal Aviation
Administration and C-Speed, a product development and engineering
services company, March 6 at Travis Air Force Base, California, to
discuss the progress of the new Cooperative Research and Development
The new CRADA was established in 2014 and began on January 15, 2015, to
test a gap-filler, Light-Wave Radar System, a system that was previously
tested in the United Kingdom. This system is designed to operate at a
different frequency range than the current Digital Airport Surveillance
Radar with a goal of being able to distinguish wind turbines from
aircraft using a system that can fill in the gaps to pinpoint the
"This new radar could be a game changer," said Gary Gottschall, 60th
Operations Group deputy commander. "We are in one of the richest wind
areas in the United States and our goal is to support green energy while
retaining our mission requirements and making sure Travis is viable in
Looking on the radar screen at the Travis Radar Approach Control flight,
a wind farm can look like a barrage of aircraft. Other military bases
have wind turbines in the vicinity of the airfield showing up on their
radars, however, Travis has a unique situation.
"We are the only base that has turbines less than five nautical miles
from the airfield," Gottschall said. "The Wind Resource Area has more
than 600 turbines that are more than 400 feet tall with blade tips that
travel at more than 200 miles per hour and show up on radar as possible
Travis is the largest Air Mobility Command base, which contributes to
RAPCON experiencing heavy traffic volume consisting of military, as well
as, private and commercial aircraft.
"In 2014, Travis monitored and assisted 138,000 operations," said Chief
Master Sgt. Michael Murdock, 60th Operation Support Squadron
superintendent. "Most people don't know that 75 percent of the traffic
is civil air traffic."
Many of these civil aircraft are either not transponder equipped or
choose not to turn on their transponders and therefore show up on the
RAPCON scope in the same way a wind turbine appears, said Gottschall.
Finding alternate sources of energy such as solar and wind power is
important to help avoid a variety of environmental impacts. California
started leading the way in wind power during the 1980s, when it was home
to 90 percent of the world's installed wind energy capacity, according
to the American Wind Energy Association.
The wind resource area in northern California grew to more than 800
turbines in the mid-2000s, causing flight safety concerns and creating
friction between Travis and the WRA developers. This lead to the
creation of the 2009 CRADA, which created radar software enhancements to
help mitigate the impact of the wind turbines on the Travis radar
"On a windy day where we can get up to 40 knots of wind, the screen
lights up," Murdock said. "Through constant testing and cooperative
research and development groups, we've come up with different ways to
take those undesired targets out, but it's not an exact science yet."
With the installation of the Assault Landing Zone in 2013, Travis'
pilots can be tactically trained for low- and high-altitude flying
locally. An important aspect to maintaining a strong relationship with
the WRA developers is to make them aware of Travis' mission to train
pilots to fly at altitudes as low as 500 feet to simulate a combat zone.
Balancing a relationship with the community and maintaining mission
readiness are important goals for every military installation.
"We completely support what these technologies can offer Travis and we
just want to ensure a safe air traffic operating environment while
accommodating as many of the civil projects as possible." Murdock said.
Testing of the LWRS will run for approximately 90 days. The ultimate
goals are to eliminate wind turbine radar interference, increase the
probability of detection, eliminate anomalies and integrate effectively
into other radar systems. Travis is the first AMC installation to test
such technologies and is paving the way for future radar improvements
across the Air Force and the Department of Defense.
"I'm very excited we are at this point, using Travis as a test bed for
trying new ideas and it is a really big step for bringing a technology
that's been used overseas to address this problem," said Dr. Donald
Erbschloe, Air Mobility Command chief scientist. "Hats off to Travis for
reaching out and leading the way."