Press release

Civil and military air traffic control in Belgium now managed using a single air traffic management system

Belgian military ATCO at her post.

The Shared Air Traffic Services System 2 (SAS2) has been put into service by the Belgian Ministry of Defence. The Belgian military air traffic controllers and the civil air traffic controllers at EUROCONTROL’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) are now working with a single air traffic management (ATM) system, which is fully in line with Single European Sky (SES) objectives.

Air traffic control services in Belgian and Luxembourg airspace are provided by three independent organisations: the Belgian Ministry of Defence for military operational air traffic (OAT), and skeyes and MUAC for civil general air traffic (GAT) in lower and upper airspace (as the latter from 24,500 feet) respectively.

Until recently, each of these organisations worked with its own air traffic control system, managed independently of the other two organisations. With the commissioning of the SAS2 system by the Belgian Ministry of Defence on 2 December 2019, the Belgian Ministry of Defence and MUAC now work with the same system. The advantages of a shared ATS system are numerous for both organisations: better coordination between civil and military controllers at both ends, improved situational awareness and safety, better communication, economies of scale, system agreements, shared tools, and joint software/hardware upgrades, all of which will ultimately lead to better performance.

Following the signature of the cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Defence and MUAC in December 2016, the SAS2 system was fully developed over the last three years in order to integrate the required military air traffic control functionalities into MUAC's existing air traffic control system. The required hardware was installed at the skeyes site in Steenokkerzeel and at the airbases of Beauvechain, Kleine-Brogel, Koksijde and Florennes.

Military ATCOs coordinating.
SAS2

MUAC sharing its system with the Belgian Air Force

A first major step towards the commissioning of the SAS2 system was taken in March 2019 when the site acceptance test was successfully carried out. This confirmed that the SAS2 system could provide safe air traffic control services, both at the various military sites and at MUAC.

In addition, intensive training was provided for both the military air traffic controllers and the technicians on the use and maintenance of this new system.

In November 2019, shadow operations took place, during which all actions carried out by the military air traffic controllers on the old ATS system (SEROS for ATCC and LATC for the air bases) were copied to the SAS2 system. Shadow operations confirmed that the SAS2 system contains all the functionalities required by the military air traffic controllers and was therefore ready to go live. At the close of the shadow operations, minor modifications were made to the SAS2 system and it was confirmed that the system was ready to be used for *initial1 military air traffic control as from 2 December 2019. Ultimately, the SAS2 system will support all military air traffic control (final operational capability) 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 to the skeyes site in Steenokkerzeel. In parallel, a study was launched by the Ministry of Defence, MUAC and skeyes to replace skeyes’ current air traffic control system with a shared ATS system – SAS3 – by 2025. This would allow the three organisations managing Belgian/Luxembourg airspace to use a single air traffic control system in order to achieve better cooperation in their services, thereby contributing to the Single European Sky (SES) objectives.

"The Directorate General Material Resources can only confirm the benefits of this partnership. Far beyond the economic benefits and those obtained by reducing the number of specialised military technicians, this cooperation represents a major step forward in the management of Belgian airspace. It is being done more efficiently and in a safer way by two of the three actors managing the airspace."

Lieutenant General Rudy Debaene Director General Material Resources

“The Shared ATS System is based on a proven Virtual Centre Concept developed and deployed by MUAC across various Royal Netherlands Air Force sites in 2013 and currently being evaluated at the Slovenia Control Centre. The system is robust, and we have every confidence that our Belgian colleagues have made a good choice. As MUAC facilities are upgraded and/or developed to SESAR standards, the improvements will automatically flow to the Belgian military air traffic control sites served from MUAC, securing economies of scale through common development and maintenance resources.”

"Working together on the same system will facilitate coordination and communication, which will only benefit flight safety".

Major General Vansina Commander of the Air Component

SAS2 is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), an EU funding instrument to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment at European level. The CEF programme budget is implemented for the most part by the EU Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA).

A first major step towards the commissioning of the SAS2 system was taken in March 2019 when the site acceptance test was successfully carried out. This confirmed that the SAS2 system could provide safe air traffic control services, both at the various military sites and at MUAC.

In addition, intensive training was provided for both the military air traffic controllers and the technicians on the use and maintenance of this new system.

In November 2019, shadow operations (off-line operations) took place, during which all actions carried out by the military air traffic controllers on the old ATS system (SEROS for ATCC and LATC for the air bases) were copied to the SAS2 system. Shadow operations confirmed that the SAS2 system contains all the functionalities required by the military air traffic controllers and was therefore ready to go live. At the close of the shadow operations, minor modifications were made to the SAS2 system and it was confirmed that the system was ready to be used for limited military air traffic control as from 2 December 2019.

Ultimately, the SAS2 system will support all military air traffic control (final operational capability) by March 2020.

In November 2019, shadow operations (off-line operations) took place, during which all actions carried out by the military air traffic controllers on the old ATS system (SEROS for ATCC and LATC for the air bases) were copied to the SAS2 system. Shadow operations confirmed that the SAS2 system contains all the functionalities required by the military air traffic controllers and was therefore ready to go live. At the close of the shadow operations, minor modifications were made to the SAS2 system and it was confirmed that the system was ready to be used for limited military air traffic control as from 2 December 2019. Ultimately, the SAS2 system will support all military air traffic control (final operational capability) 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 to the skeyes site in Steenokkerzeel. In parallel, a study was launched by the Ministry of Defence, MUAC and skeyes to replace skeyes’ current air traffic control system with a shared ATS system – SAS3 – by 2025. This would allow the three organisations managing Belgian/Luxembourg airspace to use a single air traffic control system in order to achieve better cooperation in their services, thereby contributing to the Single European Sky (SES) objectives.

For further information:

EUROCONTROL

Mireille Roman
Tel: +31 43 366 1352

Email: muac.info@eurocontrol.int

Belgian Defence

Johan Lievens, Head of Communications DGMR,
Tel.: +32 (0)2 4 419 419
Sebastien Haverals, Material Manager ATM,
Tel.: +32 (0)2 44 16249
Email: dgmr-com@mil.be

Note to editors

About Belgian Defence

The General Directorate of Material Resources (DGMR) is responsible for the implementation of Defence material resources and for their integrated management during their complete lifecycle and for all technical and logistical support (weapons systems, communication and information systems, infrastructure, equipment and support products). The equipment made available to the Components must be modern, efficient, available in sufficient quantity, and adapted to the circumstances in which it will be used, while being managed in an economical and sustainable manner. The principles adopted by DGMR to achieve these objectives are to acquire equipment already in use from our partners and requiring little or no additional development (commercial/military off-the-shelf – COTS/MOTS). This makes it possible to limit the risks related to development (costs, delays, technical problems during initial implementations, etc.) and ensures a high degree of interoperability during operational deployments. The acquisition of certain equipment in an international context also provides Defence with access to high-tech equipment at a reasonable cost. Vehicles, flying equipment, ships, armament and protection, communication systems, etc. All our equipment will be presented to you on www.mil.be. 

About MUAC

Operated by EUROCONTROL on behalf of four States, EUROCONTROL’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) provides civil and military cross-border air traffic control in the upper airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and north-west Germany (from 7.5 km or 24,500 feet). Some 1.9 million flights pass through MUAC’s area of responsibility each year, making it the third busiest air traffic control facility in Europe in terms of traffic volume. During the summer, peak days see over 5,700 flights. MUAC’s international area of responsibility is a perfect example of the simplification and harmonisation of airspace in Europe and is fully in line with the objectives of the Single European Sky.

 

[1] Initial military air traffic control means that the transition to the new ATC system imposes a number of restrictions on the number of MIL aircraft which can operate simultaneously in certain sectors. Restrictions are also imposed on the type of mission which can be flown. These restrictions will be systematically lifted in order to ensure a full ATC service using SAS2 by the end of March 2020 at the latest.

EU co-financed
SAS2 is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), a European organisation. The CEF is part of the EU Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA).