SPARKS, Nev. — They say that the world's most stressful job in the world is landing on an aircraft carrier at night in bad weather.
While That may be true, but the task is going to get significantly easier when MAGIC CARPET — or Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies — starts making its way to the fleet next year.
The goal is to get the latest version of the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies software to the fleet to start testing in 2016, F/A-18 Hornet program manager Capt. David Kindley told Navy Times on Friday at Friday, Sept. 11 at the annual Tailhook Reunion near Reno, Nevada.
From there, they're looking ahead to a 2018 total availability to the fleet's Hornet and E-18G Growler Squadrons, in addition to the F-35C Lightning II jets that will come standard with MAGIC CARPET, which will automate more of the approach so pilots need to make fewer adjustments.
Landing an aircraft on a carrier now is a delicate dance of shifting slightly left, right, up and down while adjusting the plane's throttle to make up for the tiny losses in speed and altitude for every movement of the nose.
When you do it right, you keep a little ball on the heads-up display just above the flight deck to glide down to the flight deck and catch your tailhook on the wires.
It takes an immense amount of focus and skill, but Naval Air Systems Command's MAGIC CARPET software aims to make it much easier. more simple.
"It's this admin task, where they should be focusing on the projection of power that should be our primary mission," Lt. William Dann said at a NAVAIR presentation Friday, Sept. 11.
The difference with MAGIC CARPET is that a pilot can change direction without losing speed or altitude. The software simply self-adjusts to maintain a flight path.
"What this does is makes the longitudinal stick into a flight path rate controller, so when you pull aft on the stick a certain amount, it commands a rate of change of flight path, and when you release the stick, you get zero flight path rate," he said.
When F-35Cs are delivered to the fleet in 2018, they will come with MAGIC CARPET. The challenge now, Kindley said, is to start loading the software into older airframes.
It's a two-part process, he said, which involves updating both an aircraft's flight and mission computers. Flight computers can be updated at any time, but mission computers updates are on a set schedule.
At the request of Naval Air Forces bosscommander Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Kindley said, he's looking into how soon they can start pushing the latest version of the software to Hornet mission computers, which looks like next summer right now.
That will give squadrons the chance to test out how the software works before a 2018 roll-out goal, he added.
The goal of MAGIC CARPET isn't simply to make carrier landings easier, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, the Navy's director of air warfare, told Navy Times.
Pilots spend a significant amount of their training just working on safe carrier landings, and then a significant amount of their time in the fleet requalifying for landings.
MAGIC CARPET will cut down drastically on the amount of time they spend training to land and pass that savings on to more time training for missions, time they spend learning how to do missions, Manazir said.
"We're looking forward to not having to practice as much, while reducing costs of training and repairs," he said.
Every time a pilot has a hard landing, it takes time to investigate the damage and then significant time and money to repair it. MAGIC CARPET will reduce all of that.
And for the Super Hornets, nicknamed "Rhinos," which have decades left of scheduled service, fewer hard landings and repairs is a huge plus.
"We're concerned about the life of the airframe," Kindley said.
Though pilots in the fleet will be landing aircraft with MAGIC CARPET in the next few years, Dann said that for now, they'll continue to train the old way, on T-45 Goshawk jets that don't use the system.
The question of changing that comes up often, he added.
"Do we not train guys to be the classic manual ball flyers that we always have? And we're not suggesting that at any point right now," he said. "But we do believe that in the future we will get to a point when this is the only way to fly the Rhino and the Growler, and so we don't necessarily need to train to anything else."