MONS Correspondent Marty Kauchak files this start-of-day report from the Air Force Association-sponsored Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor, MD/USA.
“We’re well into production now with SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod. We just received our 25th international customer – Bahrain – and we have also delivered more than 1,300 pods, that’s both domestic and international,” Don Bolling, Director of Business Development for Advanced Targeting Systems, at Lockheed Martin, noted in an exclusive interview.
Bolling further said: “One of our strategies is to work toward platform expansion. We started off with the US Air Force principally on the F-15 STRIKE EAGLE and the F-16 on various blocks. We have since added, and this is some time ago, B-52, B-1, F/A-18 and HARRIER for the UK.”
Indeed, the first international sale of SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod for the F/A-18 community was to the Royal Canadian Air Force for its CF-18C/Ds. Lockheed Martin expects the RCAF will request this pod as part of the possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Canada of 10 F/A-18E Super HORNET aircraft, announced earlier this month. Bolling continued: “Lockheed Martin delivers the pod in high definition configurations – infrared or electro-optical (black and white TV) to its US Air Force and overseas customers.”
Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) is an imaging sensor which allows every F-35 LIGHTNING II stealth fighter, in the US and with programme partner nations, to identify, track and designate targets – furnishing air-to-air and air-to-surface targeting capability. Bolling further differentiated EOTS from SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod, noting that EOTS has basically the same functionality as the latter system – mid-wave, forward.looking infrared (FLIR) laser designator range finder, but evolved to meet the F-35s requirements. “The F-35 had to have an infrared search track capability built into the EOTS,” the subject matter expert explained, effectively making it a passive air-to-air radar.
At the start of AFA day 2, Lockheed Martin announced the completion of the 300th EOTS was completed under the 10th Low-Rate-Initial Production contract, with each system delivered on time or ahead of schedule. Given EOTS conforms to early 2000s-era technology baseline for F-35, there are expectations to bring the system to a higher technology level.
“Technology has moved on in the infrared focal plane array domain as well,” Bolling matter-of-factly said and pointed out: “We are talking about EOTSs with a 1k x 1k focal plane array. Now you are talking about, easily, 4 megapixel arrays being available with much, much greater resolution –like high definition TV.”
Indeed, Bolling’s division has forwarded conceptual EOTS enhancements gained from internal Lockheed Martin investments to F-35 government customers and Joint Program Office for their awareness and consideration, for implementation in Block 4 upgrades. In another EOTS programme life cycle milestone, it was announced before the start of 2017 AFA that US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL/USA) became the first military depot to establish the capability to repair F-35s EOTS. “This will logically be first of several depots,” Bolling said, and referred further questions about F-35 maintenance, including EOTS, to the Program Executive Office.
MONS readers are aware that F-35 maintenance depots for engine and other subsystems are being established around the globe to support clusters of international F-35 partner nations’ fleets.