The AMS-UK upgrade has gone live; but how does this messaging system shape communication in the aviation industry?

NATS successfully upgraded its aeronautical messaging switch (AMS-UK) system in the UK recently, without any disruption to the airlines and airport operators that receive information from the system.

This upgrade was carried out overnight to minimise disruption, as there are fewer air traffic movements.

It is because of this system that information needed to plan flights and control air traffic flow – as well as any impactful meteorological information – can be exchanged between the relevant aeronautical users across the globe.

Once COMSOFT, the German company that manufactured and installed the system, put it in place, a team of around 20 NATS staff from the engineering design, operations and programs sections carried out a significant amount of work in implementing and managing the transition of the system upgrade in time for the rush of air traffic from the Atlantic in the early hours of the morning.

This screenshot of the AMS software shows the flight plan for an Embraer ERJ 135 M-AAKV from Paris le Bourget to Beirut – the first to be transmitted over the upgraded AMS software

This screenshot of the AMS software shows the flight plan for an Embraer ERJ 135 M-AAKV from Paris le Bourget to Beirut – the first to be transmitted over the upgraded AMS software

So what else does this system provide for the aviation industry?

AMS-UK is critical to NATS as a business and for communicating with others in the aviation industry as a whole.

It is also a stepping stone for the implementation of a Single European Sky (SES) – providing a better messaging system for interoperability in joining up Europe’s currently fragmented airspace.

The new AMS-UK system can now provide a whole array of enhanced functions, paving the way for how messages will be exchanged in the future, and therefore enabling a more efficient service.

Some of the enhanced functions include: running on a virtual machine (which supports NATS’ future SESAR strategy); and better hardware for packaging the messages and exchanging them with other Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs).

All ANSPs have a form of messaging system, and under European regulations, they all have to comply with industry standards and provide systems that will be compatible with other systems.

AMS-UK enables NATS to be at the leading edge of data distribution and technology and ensures that we continue to fulfil our licence obligation in providing that service for the next five to seven years (which is when the next upgrade will take place).

This upgraded version is even more reliable and future-proof.


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Colin Potter

Was West Drayton so long ago that no one remembers that it was LATCC?



David Pearson

Who remembers the Ferranti Argus 500 Message Switch with its high speed paper tapes and its enormous disk drives and other fascinating bits of archaic hardware. We still had this in 1990 so we have come along way in 25 years.



Terry Burnell

I agree with DP. In today’s terms the Argus 500 does seem archaic and it’s infamous successor the Argus 700…although the less said about that the better! Of course, the AMS-UK subsequently replaced those and gave NATS a more up to date, future proof, message switching system. So it’s good to hear it’s still in operation after recent upgrading. On the other hand, rolling the clock back to those earlier Ferranti systems, different technology and levels of reliability, and also different challenges…just trying to keep them up and running for at least a whole week! Those were the days.



Harry Anduze

Great job. From AFTN/CIDIN to the new AMHS with X.400/X.500 protocol and the new AMHS.


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