Belgium’s civil, military ATC readying for single system

Military air traffic controllers of the Belgian Ministry of Defence and their civilian counterparts at Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) will all be using the upgraded MUAC Air Traffic Management system – a concept known as the Shared ATS System (SAS2) – from December.

Site acceptance testing – the last major milestone before the system goes live next December – has been successfully completed.

Air traffic control services in the airspace of Belgium and Luxembourg are provided by three different organisations: the Belgian Ministry of Defence for military Operational Air Traffic (OAT) and skeyes and MUAC for civil General Air Traffic (GAT) in lower airspace and upper airspace (from 24,500 feet) respectively.

The advantages of a Shared ATS System are many: enhanced coordination between civil and military controllers at both ends, enhanced safety and situational awareness, better communications, economies of scale, system commonality, shared tools, joint software/hardware upgrades – ultimately leading to enhanced performance.

Over the last two years, the SAS2 concept has been developed in order to integrate into MUAC’s current ATM system the specific functionalities required for military air traffic control. The required hardware was installed at the skeyes site in Steenokkerzeel and at the airbases of Beauvechain, Kleine-Brogel, Koksijde and Florennes.

Recently the site acceptance test was successfully carried out – proof that the system can provide air traffic control services at the various military sites as well as for civil air traffic in various locations. This site acceptance test consisted of a series of technical tests conducted mainly at night to minimise the impact on MUAC operations. This means that the project is now in its final implementation phase.

The final phase of the project will concentrate on further developments to integrate the latest functionalities required, intensive training for the military air traffic controllers and technicians who will be using and monitoring the new system, and development of the remaining installations. The SAS2 system will initially be used for limited military air traffic control operations in early December 2019. Ultimately, the SAS2 system will support all military air traffic control by March 2020.

The commissioning of the SAS2 system by the Belgian Ministry of Defence coincides with the move of the military Air Traffic Control Centre (ATCC) from Semmerzake to the skeyes site in Steenokkerzeel. In parallel, a study was launched by the Belgian Ministry of Defence, MUAC and skeyes to assess the feasibility of implementing the Shared ATS System concept at skeyes – the SAS3 – by 2025. This would allow the three organisations responsible for Belgian/Luxembourg airspace to use a single air traffic control system for both civil and military traffic and to enhance cooperation and synergies, thereby contributing to the development of the Single European Sky.

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