Navy Successfully Lands Carrier Strike Fighter by Remote Control
The U.S. Navy successfully tested landing a strike fighter on an aircraft carrier by remote control --using a system called ATARI. Popular Mechanics says the ATARI test landings took place in March aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. A pilot was aboard the fighter during the test. But the system is meant to solve the problem of landing unmanned aircraft during emergencies. ATARI stands for "Aircraft Terminal Approach Remote Inceptor." and consists of an F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter outfitted for remote operation.
ATARI gives the landing signal operator --a carrier pilot trained to guide other pilots to a safe landing-- the ability to land an aircraft. The officer is situated at the edge of the carrier flight deck and equipped with instruments that show an incoming airplane's glide slope and lineup errors, providing the operator on the carrier a ideal vantage point and data for remotely landing a plane.
Now when the LSO (Landing Signal Officer) gives the radio call: "Three-quarters of a mile, call the ball"....(the ball refers to a set of lights at the edge of the ship's deck whose colors change depending on the accuracy of the pilot's approach).... the LSO will be talking to himself.
According to the U.S. Navy, the ATARI system’s first successful carrier landing involved a manned F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter from the “Salty Dogs,” a Navy flight test squadron. The Hornet performed three near-landings, known as waveoffs, as last-minute tests of the system before bringing the Hornet in for an actual landing. A previous version of ATARI was tested on land using a modified Learjet.