DCC increases CF-18 operability through “smart” arrestor system

The cable passes this test as it hooks the CF-18 aircraft and brings it safely to a halt.
Photo by John Bruyea
The cable passes this test as it hooks the CF-18 aircraft and brings it safely to a halt. Photo by John Bruyea

DCC is at the forefront of helping to ensure the Canadian Armed Forces is equipped and ready for whatever deployments may come their way. Nowhere is that more evident than at 8 Wing Trenton where yet another infrastructure improvement is making life easier for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

A new arrestor system for helping CF-18 fighter jets make emergency landings or abort their departures at Canadian airbases is now in place, thanks to the hard work of the DND and DCC project teams. Nicholas Hilts, Construction Coordinator led the DCC team and recently signed off on the substantial completion notice for the new Barrier Arrest Kit (BAK)-14 and BAK-12 combination system at 8 Wing Trenton.

“If an aircraft goes off the end of the runway, that can be a very bad situation,” says Hilts. “The C-17 and the new J-model Hercules have reverse thrust so if they have a single engine failure, they can still touch down on the runway and stop within a safe distance. The CF-18 only has hydraulic brakes, so if it gets up to rotation speed and it's about to take-off and needs to abort, there's no slowing it down. It's either got to go in the air or take the cable.”

Using the old arrestor system, BAK-12 alone, technicians had to physically drag the cable across the runway, attaching it to above-ground anchors. This took the technicians about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. The new BAK-14 beam that operates the cable is permanently encased in concrete underground and can be remotely deployed from the air traffic control tower. It is completely pneumatically driven.

“When the jets are in the circuit or close to the airfield, the control tower can physically flip a switch causing the cable to rise from the tarmac and be ready to take the aircraft,” says Hilts. “Installed 1,500 feet from each end of the runway, the arrestor cables can be used in emergencies during both landing and departure. When used, the cables can stop the forward motion of the jet within 1,200 feet.”

Unlike the old arrestor system that stopped the jet based on only one variable – the need to arrest the aircraft – the BAK-12 Smart arrest system uses smart technology to account for aircraft weight, speed and fuel with input from its user. This increases the probability of a safer, more successful landing or abort.

“This has been a very rewarding project to work on and very interesting as well to stand there and watch the cable take the CF-18 knowing how much easier it is to do than before.”

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