Sniper Pods to Equip Canada’s F-18s
Canadian defense minister Gordon O’Connor recently announced that Lockheed Martin’s Sniper ATP has won a contract for 36 surveillance and targeting pods to equip Canada’s CF-18 (upgraded F/A-18A and F/A-18B) aircraft. The contract includes spares, support equipment and integrated logistics support until 2020. Lockheed’ Martin’s release adds that the pods will be installed with “no aircraft modifications and no operational limitations.” This is especially important if the government plans to deploy CF-18s to Kandahar, Afghanistan in the near future.
This CF-18 Advanced Multi-Role Infrared Sensor (AMIRS) project is part of a larger modernization program initiated in 2001. Out of its original purchase of 138 aircraft (98 single-seat CF18A and 40 dual-seat CF18B), Canada retains an operational fleet of 60 CF-18s, plus an additional 25 CF-18Bs in service with 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron to train its fighter pilots.
The total value of the contract is C$ 126 million (currently about USD$ 109 million), which includes C$ 101 million for the acquisition of 36 AMIRS/Sniper pods and C$ 25 million for in-service support through to 2020. Canada will take delivery of the first pod in the spring of 2007 (i.e. almost immediately), and expects to formally declare initial operational capability by April 2008.
Canada’s “Full Economic Benefits Policy” of industrial offsets mean that Lockheed Martin is pledged to generate one dollar of economic activity in Canada for every dollar it receives from the contract. As a starting point, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control will execute the program for the Canadian Forces, with technical assistance and services support from Lockheed Martin Canada.
DID has covered the success of the F-18’s Raytheon ATFLIR targeting pods and the way they’ve changed the aircraft’s role in Iraq, the way the value of the AV-8B Harrier has been changed by its LITENING AT pod, and the success of the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR pod on F-15Es in the Iraqi theater. “The Major’s Email: British Harrier Support in Afghanistan, Revisited” also covered the flip side – the difficulties that ensured despite the best efforts of the pilots, when flying aircraft that lacked both the targeting pods’ precision capabilities, and the dedicated close support design of aircraft like the American O/A-10 “Warthog” or Sukhoi’s SU-25/29 Frogfoot.
Sniper/Pantera ATPs are currently flying on or ordered for the USAF (F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16s, A-10s, and now the B-1 bomber), Belgium (8, on F-16 A/Bs), Britain (GR9 Harrier IIs), Norway (20, on F-16 A/Bs), Oman (F-16 E/Fs), Poland (F-16 C/Ds), and Singapore (F-15SG Strike Eagles). The Canadian order marks the first F/A-18 related win, as Spain, Australia, and US Hornets use Northrop Grumman’s LITENING AT; and US Navy Super Hornets use Raytheon’s ATFLIR.