Moody, Warner Robbins team up for radio modernization

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Courtney Sebastianelli

Successfully managing air traffic requires constant radio communication between ground personnel and aircrews. For both the air traffic control tower and Radar Approach Control (RAPCON), the ability to communicate clearly with pilots throughout a flight ensures safety during day-to-day operations.

Recently, Airmen assigned to the 23rd Operational Support Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, and Air National Guardsmen from the 202nd Engineering and Installation Squadron, Warner Robbins Air Force Base, teamed up to replace the legacy radios with modern, digital radios.

“Upgrading our ‘70s era technology in the radio modernization project is critical to Moody Air Force Base’s mission to generate combat airpower,” said Maj. Garrett Strassler, 23rd OSS director of operations. “The new technology ensures we can safely control the surrounding skies and enables operational unit’s training to be ready for any future conflicts.”

Beyond providing adequate separation between flying aircraft, RAPCON's responsibilities include issuing safety alerts and traffic advisories, ensuring the year-round training is effectively accomplished.

The enhanced capability of the digital radios is beneficial for both military and Federal Aviation Administration’s local civilian flight traffic as the RAPCON supports the air space of 13 surrounding civilian airports.

Covering an expansive area of approximately 100 miles in each direction of the base, and reaching altitudes of up to 40,000 feet, RAPCON manages aircraft even when they are beyond visual range, exemplifying their crucial role in ensuring airspace safety and efficiency.

“Our communication is our lifeline to the aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. Krysta Cruz, 23rd OSS RAPCON chief controller. “We have to be able to communicate with aircraft in order to get them to and from their trainings. Mission effective wise, these radio upgrades will allow us to enhance our capabilities with increased range.”

Transitioning to modern radios not only extended the range of communication, but also addressed financial and manpower demands. Having passed their end-of-life cycle, the replacement parts rendered themselves obsolete.

In the past year, roughly 84% of the annual budget for Radar Air Field and Weather Systems was spent on repairs. Airmen were also spending anywhere from 5-20 hours troubleshooting radios on a weekly basis.

“These new radios are a big improvement to our work center’s efficiency,” said Tech. Sgt Jordan Crocker, 23rd OSS Radar, Airfield and Weather Systems section chief. “Due to the radios digital interface, we are able to diagnose issues and reprogram much faster. Additionally, not having to dedicate our annual funding for repairs related to radio outages allows us to better allocate funding to other lower priority, but necessary, repairs.”

To successfully upgrade the radios, Airmen completed the project in phases. The first phase of the radio modernization required upgrades to the transmission lines. The old antennas and cabling were not compatible for the incoming radios. Thus, they transitioned from copper cables to fiber optic cables to enhance signal clarity and overall communication reliability.

The second phase involved switching out the legacy radios for the new digital radios. The newer models, which are rack-mounted transmitter and receiver systems, required more than just setting them on a shelf and plugging them into power.

Airmen and Guardsman installed 8 racks then mounted twenty-six new radios to those racks in the ground-to-air transmitter receiver site. They also added twelve radios in the control tower and RAPCON.

The collaboration between Airmen from the 23rd OSS and the Guardsmen from the 202nd EIS improved airspace safety and efficiency while also optimizing resource allocation and modernizing operational effectiveness. The impact of these changes is sure to be seen as the mission continues into the future.