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Tue, Mar 24, 2009

Sniper Pod Improves Capabilities, Lethality of B-1

Also Fitted To F-15 Strike Eagles, A-10s

The B-1 Lancer, one of the most versatile aircraft in the Air Force arsenal, is now even more lethal. This lethality is not due to bigger bombs in its bomb bay, but to a small torpedo-shaped pod stuck to the plane's underbelly.

Called the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, the device enables the B-1's aircrew to "see" the battlefield better using both infrared and television sensors. This gives them the capability to positively identify targets without additional aids such as other aircraft or ground personnel and allows the operator to see behind the aircraft for a 360-degree view.

The Sniper ATP possesses advanced targeting technology and its high-resolution image processing allows aircrews to detect and identify tactical-size targets outside threat rings for the destruction of enemy air defense mission, as well as outside jet noise ranges for urban counter-insurgency operations. The pod also offers a three to five times increase in detection range over the legacy LANTIRN system, or Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night.

"The Sniper ATP is a long-range precision targeting system that supports the precision strike mission by providing positive target identification, autonomous tracking, coordinate generation, and precise weapons guidance from extended standoff ranges supporting air to ground operations," said Lt. Col. Kevin Kennedy, commander of the 34th Bomb Squadron.

Designed, developed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the Sniper ATP also has streaming capability, which means B-1 operators can downlink the video captured by the sniper pod and allow personnel on the ground to see exactly what the bomber crew is seeing.

"This capability is important for combat operations to provide near real-time feedback and strike assessment for theater commanders," he said.

This also improves target identification. Instead of relying on a radar to identify a target, aircrew and commanders can have eyes on the target, allowing them to know for sure the target being fired upon is the correct one. "Which, of course, is important," Kennedy added.

The Sniper ATP is also meant to be very "maintenance friendly." For ease of maintenance, the Sniper ATP has a revolutionary optical bed design, optimal partitioning and diagnostic capabilities that permit true two-level maintenance, eliminating costly intermediate-level support.

An automated built-in test permits a maintainer to isolate and replace parts in under 20 minutes to get the pod operational. Spares are ordered through a user-friendly Web site offering in-transit visibility to parts shipment.

"The pod does have a lot of parts," said Staff Sgt. Bill Doser, a maintainer with the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, "but it has been reliable from a maintenance perspective."

The B-1 isn't the first aircraft to use the Sniper ATP. The F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II have used the Sniper ATP in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The system also is being integrated on the B-52 Stratofortress.

FMI: www.af.mil

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