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Posted 10/22/2013 Printable Fact Sheet
AN/FPN-16 Precision Approach Radar & Shelter
DAYTON, Ohio -- AN/FPN-16 Precision Approach Radar and Shelter at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Note: This exhibit is located in the Research & Development Gallery on a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Click here for requirements to visit this gallery.

The FPN-16 was designed to operate as one vital element of a complete ground controlled approach (GCA) facility, guiding aircraft to final approaches in bad weather. (A complete GCA facility would include radio communications equipment and a search radar in addition to the precision approach radar equipment.) This radar set tracks the approaching aircraft down its line of descent (glidepath to the runway) and along its course during the final critical phase of the ground controlled approach. It alternately scans in both the vertical and horizontal planes to track the approaching aircraft's line of descent and course. The controller advises the pilot by radio of any changes in the glidepath or course needed to accomplish a safe landing.

This was one of the earliest types of extended aircraft traffic control radar used by the USAF. It gave the USAF increased operational effectiveness, permitting landings at lower ceilings and visibility, hence better all-weather capability. Such equipment was essential to the success of the Berlin Airlift in 1948-1949. Hundreds of lives have been saved by USAF air traffic controllers utilizing such equipment at USAF installations throughout the world.

This unit was installed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1952, and remained in service until retired to the museum in 1978. Using radar information from this set, air traffic controllers accomplished three "saves" or recoveries of aircraft when there had been a reasonable doubt that the aircraft could have landed safely without assistance. One involved a flight of two F-84s guided to safe landings in January 1969. The two other recorded "saves" occurred on Oct. 20, 1977, when two civilian aircraft carrying traffic reporters for Dayton radio stations were forced to make emergency landings at Patterson Field in dense ground fog.

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