Building a Better LANTIRN
December 5/16: Egypt is to receive 65 LANTIRN targeting pods under the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program . Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the navigation and targeting pod systems will come from existing USAF stocks and are most likely to be used on Cairo’s fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons. Some of Egypt’s F-16s already operate LM’s AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pod, LANTIRN’s successor.
Targeting pods are a very affordable way to upgrade existing aircraft with precision strike and surveillance capabilities. As such, their popularity in the modern age is likely to remain very strong for the foreseeable future. At present, the top offerings on the market include the Northrop-Grumman/ RAFAEL LITENING series (vid. the recent Dutch order), Lockheed’s Sniper XR/Pantera, and Raytheon’s ATFLIR. All are 3rd generation offerings, successors to the early 2nd generation LITENING all-in-one pods and the first-generation LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) twin-pod set.
LANTIRN pods may be first-generation technology, but they still fly with a number of air forces and were included as the pods specified for Greece’s new F-16Ds. As such, Lockheed’s announcement that it is selling upgraded LANTIRNs to Denmark offers an interesting look at potential opportunities at the lower end of the global market.
As noted earlier, LANTIRN is a system of two pods. The AN/AAQ-13 navigation pod provides high-speed penetration and precision attack assistance in all flying conditions, using a terrain-following radar and a fixed infrared sensor to display an image of the terrain in front of the aircraft on a heads-up display of cockpit viewscreen. This helps the pilot maintain a pre-selected altitude above the terrain and avoid obstacles, while flying at high speed and using mountains, valleys and the cover of darkness to avoid radar detection.
The AN/AAQ-14 targeting pod is just what it says: a laser and infrared targeting pod to assist in the delivery of precision weapons like Paveway laser-guided bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, et. al.
The Royal Danish Air Force will pay Lockheed Martin $20 million for the latest round of upgrades to their 13 LANTIRN targeting pods, and also requests another 3 LANTIRN ER (extended range) pods. The 26-month contract includes organizational-level spares, maintenance training and pilot familiarization training.
As part of Lockheed’s 8-year partnership with the RDAF, its LANTIRN targeting pods were upgraded in a previous contract to include a CCD TV, a 40,000-ft. laser and a laser spot tracker. LANTIRN ER adds a third-generation mid-wave forward-looking infrared (FLIR), an infrared pointer, an inertial measurement unit to assist with positioning fixes guided weapons, and extended range software. It also simplifies the original pod design and eliminates many parts in an effort to increase reliability and reduce operation and support costs. See Lockheed press release.
While the LANTIRN ER is significantly less capable than the LITENING AT pod recently ordered by the Dutch for their F-16s, the deal’s economics are worth noting: $20 million for 13 upgrades of existing systems plus 3 pods (16), vs. just over $40 million for 20 LITENING AT 3rd generation targeting pods and spares.
December 5/16: Egypt is to receive 65 LANTIRN targeting pods under the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the navigation and targeting pod systems will come from existing USAF stocks and are most likely to be used on Cairo’s fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons. Some of Egypt’s F-16s already operate LM’s AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pod, LANTIRN’s successor.