HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi is the first National Guard unit in the country to receive the Army's new mobile air traffic control system. Soldiers from Southaven are busy training with the new gear at Camp Shelby.
The portable air traffic control tower is mounted on a five ton military truck. Inside the unit, soldiers in training direct helicopter traffic.
The system is designed for rapid deployment, anywhere in the world.
Along with the tower, there's a portable generator, solar powered runway lights and a portable weather station.
"We can roll in, within 15 minutes we're able to talk to all aircraft, emergency responders. Within two hours, the entire system can be deployed for full use," said Mark Holland, with the 2-185 Aviation Regiment in Southaven.
Called MOTS, the Mobile Tower System replaces air traffic control equipment that's been around since 1970.
National Guard members from the 2nd 185th Aviation Regiment are learning the new gear. The upgraded system offers multiple benefits over the outdated version.
"Visibility the tower provides. The much bigger tower area for viewing. And the fact it's mounted on a five ton truck versus the older version which was a lower mount on a humvee. So, much more room to work in there and some much upgraded radios for communication," said Commander Glenn Flowers.
"It's easier to operate. It's a lot simpler. There's fewer components," said Holland.
Though it will be based in Southaven, Mississippi, near Memphis, this equipment can be used anywhere around the state for disaster response.
"I was part of the support for Hurricane Katrina. And as we all know, the tower at Gulfport airport was non-functioning. If we had this system, within ten minutes the 2nd 185th could roll in and provide terminal air traffic control to that airport," Commander Flowers recalled.
The gear has already been battle tested. A similar system was used in Afghanistan for the past year.
Though it's mounted on a five-ton military truck, the portable air traffic control tower can also be removed and transported by helicopter.