The U.S. Air Force (USAF) approved full-rate production of the Sniper advanced targeting pod under its ATP-Sensor Enhancement (ATP-SE) program, manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced on January 16. In November, the service approved full-rate production of Northrop Grumman’s Litening pod under the same program.
The Sniper and Litening pods are multi-sensor precision targeting and surveillance systems integrated on Air Force F-15, F-16, A-10, B-52 and B-1 aircraft and platforms flown by other U.S. and international services. In September 2010, the USAF selected both pods under the ATP-SE program, which was valued at $2.3 billion for new pods and associated equipment, spares and product support. At the time of that announcement, Lockheed Martin said that it was awarded a 60-percent share of the program for up to 670 pods through 2017, if all options were exercised. The company said the full-rate production buy includes 65 Sniper ATP-SE pods.
In a related development in January, the USAF said that it completed testing of a new Net-T (network tactical) capability for the Litening and Sniper pods at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The Net-T software upgrade, supplied under a quick-reaction-capability contract, makes possible a point-to-multipoint datalink communications system when used with other platforms. Ground units equipped with Rover-5 (remotely operated video enhanced receiver-5) terminals can communicate with each other using a pod-equipped aircraft within line of sight to route the signals. Previously, the Rover-5 could send and receive data only from the aircraft.
The USAF said that a key test point was to ensure that the Net-T upgrade did not affect the ATP-SE sensor performance in any way. Test engineers set up five Rover stations around the Eglin AFB test range and sent files back and forth using Net-T on different pods and aircraft types, including a B-1B bomber from Dyess AFB in Texas, and F-16 and F-15E fighters from the 40th Flight Test Squadron.
Lockheed Martin said that initial deployment of Sniper ATP-SE pods will occur this year. The Net-T upgrade could be deployed in operational aircraft by 2014, according to the USAF.