October 10, 2006 The Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) is the targeting system of choice for both the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard and recently became an even more valuable bit of kit when it successfully demonstrated its compatibility with the launch of a Maverick missile from an adjacent A-10C wing pylon. Combat proven on the F-15E and F-16, Sniper’s advanced targeting technology and features are changing the way the armed forces operate in theatre by providing new capabilities in non-traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). The Sniper is understandably very sensitive – in order to do its job, it contains a high-resolution, mid wave 3rd generation forward looking infrared (FLIR), a dual-mode laser and a CCD-TV along with a laser spot tracker and a laser marker. The advanced image processing algorithms, combined with rock steady stabilization techniques, provide cutting-edge performance but there are obvious issues in firing the rockets it does the precision strike mission targeting for when they are just a few inches away. The ability to fire missiles so close to the Sniper ATP uniquely qualifies Sniper for this weapon configuration, doubling the previous A-10C Maverick loadout capabilities.
Sniper provides vastly improved long-range target detection/identification and continuous stabilized surveillance in support of ground forces. For the first time, aircrews can detect and identify many classes of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), weapon caches, and individuals carrying armaments, all outside jet noise ranges. The superior imagery and JDAM-quality coordinates provided by Sniper keep aircrews out of the range of threat air defenses in their defining moments.
Fully compatible with the latest standoff weaponry, the pod provides automatic tracking and laser designation of tactical size targets via real-time imagery presented on cockpit displays. Likewise, the supersonic, low-observable design results in a substantial reduction in drag and weight.
"The addition of Sniper ATP greatly enhances the capabilities of the A-10," said Ken Fuhr, Sniper ATP program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, prime contractor for the U.S. Air Force-led ATP program. "It provides the A-10 the ability to deliver both laser-guided and J-series weapons while enhancing existing close air support capabilities and providing greater capability to positively identify targets and growth capability for future weapons."
The test was conducted in August by the U.S. Air Force's 46th Test Wing, 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Ft. Walton Beach, FL. The Sniper ATP was mounted on an A-10C Precision Engagement aircraft adjacent to the Maverick missile mounted on the LAU-88 missile rail. In this configuration, Sniper ATP is approximately 15 inches from the missile body. Test pilots from the 40th Test Squadron at Eglin AFB, FL, and the 422nd Test Squadron at Nellis AFB, NV, reported that they are impressed with Sniper ATP's performance during the developmental and operational flight tests of the A-10C. The A-10C's avionics upgrade and targeting pod integration are part of the Precision Engagement (PE) program, led by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration-Owego in New York.
Sniper ATPs are currently flying on the U.S. Air Force F-15E, F-16 and A-10 and are set to fly on the B-1 this month. Unlike other pods, Sniper ATP features a unique common aperture that eliminates boresight errors, ensures image stability even at supersonic speeds and has the most precise geo-location accuracy.
Additionally, Sniper ATP's true two-level maintenance eliminates expensive intermediate-level test equipment. Sniper ATPs have proven superior in tens of thousands of flight hours in thousands of sorties in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.