April 26th, 2020

Lighting the way for military aircrafts

In this latest ‘Midstream Lighting Sectors’ blog, we talk to Midstream’s Co-Founder Yuli Grig about our military aviation experience.


We didn’t have any contacts in military aviation, and they don’t particularly have an online route you can contact them through. So, it was quite hard for us to break into this market at first. Then, we met some design consultants at a trade show who were working for the Royal Air Force. They were so impressed with our products and application knowledge, they invited us to make a presentation at a large RAF airbase. We were in!

Since then, we’ve been growing our contacts and winning projects by word of mouth.


Typically they follow similar rules. But the military has its own interpretation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards. And in the UK, we have to follow the Military Aviation Authority’s Manual of Aerodrome Design & Safeguarding (MADS).

The layout of a military airfield, however, is inherently different from a civil aviation one. They’re built for military aircraft – fighter jets and bombers, not holiday airbuses. There’s also typically no terminal building, no air bridge, and no passenger buses. So, the lighting design must take things like this into account. This usually means we have to use lighting solutions designed for stadia rather than airfields.

Give us a feel for some of your most recent work?

I can’t say too much but recently we’ve completed, or are working on:

Three projects in the UK.
One for the US Airforce in Italy.
And, one each in Spain, Germany, Qatar, and Greece.

What type of specific difficulties or problems are there with military projects?

Quite often, when bases are shared with the US Dept of Defence, there can be some debate about which standards apply.

Military bases also need to illuminate a large surface area with a few remotely located masts. This means we’ve got to use a lot of very high-power projectors on each mast. And that can present a big challenge when working on retrofit projects.

Another issue we can face is that military sites have usually been in operation for decades. Over that time military needs, equipment and aircrafts have changed. But, field layouts and the infrastructure haven’t. So, we need to solve today’s problems with masts that were designed many years ago.

Why is military lighting so important?

Like any site, lighting is critical to providing a safe working environment. As aircraft arrive from missions or training or are being refuelled and inspected, the level of lighting must be 100% right. And the lights used must remain in good working order throughout their design life. Just as with commercial airports, there’s no room for failure.

That’s not all. The lighting must be able to be controlled for operations where pilots arrive using night vision devices – a unique need for military airfields.

What product do we use usually recommend and why?

All our projects are design-led, and each airfield layout needs the right combination of lighting products. So, we don’t have a standard product we recommend. Our experienced Lighting Design and Engineering teams work together to deliver perfect lighting solutions for each specific airfield. Most of the military projects we’ve competed though have incorporated our high-power Modus R1200 sports floodlight to some extent.

What are the technical advantages of using this product on military sites?

The Modus R1200 sports floodlight lets us place a lot of quality light far away from where it’s based. And its range of proprietary optics and visors also means we can meet a projects specific needs when others can’t.

What does the military looking for when they appoint a lighting solutions company?

For the military, the two key considerations, when commissioning any project, are complying with standards, and reliability. Both of which are at the heart of all we do. They’re used to all their equipment being of the highest order and highly reliable. Careers have been made or broken depending on choices made. And commissioning an airfield’s lighting system is no different.

We deliver an added benefit too. Our experience of designing military airfield sites means we can value engineer existing projects to deliver real capital and operational savings.

Can you tell us about a particular project – the challenge faced and our solution?

As you’ll appreciate, all our military projects are all confidential and highly sensitive. So, we can’t give any details away. I wish we could, to show you how we’ve successfully tackled some of our toughest challenges ever. But, as the old joke goes, ‘If I told you that…’.

What advice you would give to a military airfield looking to upgrade their lighting?

I’d take the same approach as when you’re buying any military equipment. It’s got to be top quality, made for purpose and tested in the field. Military airfield lighting needs specialist knowledge and equipment. So, make sure you come to the experts. Us.


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