Belgium Buys 8 Sniper Pods for its F-16s
These days, most global fighter fleets are seeing an increase in average ages. One of the ways to deal with this is via external add-ons like targeting and surveillance pods, a segment that has become very popular within the last decade. Lockheed Martin just announced a firm fixed-price foreign military sales contract to Belgium Defense (BE DEF) for 8 Sniper(R) Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP) following an international competition. Terms of the contract were not released, but the USAF’s initial 7-year contract for Sniper ATP has potential value in excess of $843 million for at least 522 Sniper ATPs. That’s about $1.6 million per pod, but Belgium will likely pay more because of the required training and system introduction costs as they replace or supplement their existing 1980s-technology LANTIRN pods. Sniper ATP Deliveries are expected to begin this year (2007).
Fully integrated and certified on the common EPAF F-16MLU configuration flown by Belgium, Lockheed’s Sniper/Pantera competes against the LITENING III/AT (recently chosen by The Netherlands) and ATFLIR at the higher end of the market. It also competes against lower-cost options; for instance, Denmark recently chose to upgrade its LANTIRN pods instead, and Greece made a similar decision. Lockheed Martin’s release cites “long-range performance capabilities that allow aircrews to complete missions successfully outside threat ranges” as a key driver for Belgium’s choice; DID has no statement from the Belgians on this score. Sniper/Pantera ATPs are currently flying on or ordered by the USAF (F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16s, A-10s, and now the B-1 bomber), Norway (20, on F-16 A/Bs), Oman (F-16 E/Fs), Poland (F-16 C/Ds), and Singapore (F-15SG Strike Eagles)… and, since the Belgian order, by Canada (F/A-18 A/B+) and Pakistan (F-16 A-D). Lockheed Martin release.
UPDATE May 5/08: De Morgen reports that 4 Sniper pods have been delivered at Florennes AFB, with the last 4 to be delivered before 4 F-16’s depart to Afghanistan.