February 25, 2008 Lockheed Martin has integrated a prototype two-way video data link into the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, providing it with roughly twice the data range of any other fielded targeting pod. The VDL, which provides forward deployed troops with the Sniper ATP’s real-time full resolution streaming video, was successfully demonstrated at the US Air Force Sniper user’s conference.
In addition to providing troops with video, the VDL allows pilots to receive and view uplinked tactical video, and annotated images, on their cockpit displays. It uses the Rover, a ground receiving station, and is fully integrated with Falcon View, a software application that operates with the Rover.
“The imagery is recognized as critical to performing the missions,” said Byron Simpson, technical director of the Sniper ATP program. “The two-way VDL significantly improves communications between ground and air, allowing more accurate and successful missions.”
Lockheed Martin is contracted to provide up to 522 ATPs for the Air Force and National Guard. In addition to having a much lower aerodynamic drag than its predecessors, the Sniper ATP has 3-5 times better detection range. It uses a combination of FLIR and CCD to provide high quality, stable, continuous vision during day and night. The pod is 239cm long, 30cm wide, and weighs 199kg.
The Sniper is the only ATP providing critical VDL digital metadata to the ground user today, giving it an unrivaled aerial advantage on the battlefield. Its modular design allows it to be configured on the flightline for different mission needs, and allows the VDL pod to support the L, S, C, or Ku frequency bands when the two-way system is fielded. The addition of the two-way production capability is planned for 2008.
The Sniper ATP is being used in Iraq on F-15Es and F-16s, and is currently being integrated on the B-1. It uses advanced, stabilized targeting technology to generate precision coordinates for GPS aided weapons, and to guide laser-guided precision-guided munitions. Its long-range target detection and identification surveillance system is allowing aircrews to spot IEDs, weapon caches and armed individuals beyond audible detection for the first time. It features high-resolution, mid-wave third-generation forward-looking infrared and an eye-safe laser with a charge-coupled device television, a laser spot tracker and a laser marker. The imagery, and JDAM-quality coordinates, also keep aircrews out of threat air defense ranges.
"Sniper's superior stability, combined with advanced image processing algorithms, provides unequaled target detection and identification, and maximizes standoff range for our aircrews," stated Mike Donovan, vice president, Fire Control and Sensors. Equally important, Donovan emphasized Sniper's low life-cycle cost and outstanding reliability. "Sniper's modular design ensures true two-level maintenance, eliminates intermediate level support, reduces manpower, and minimizes maintenance training requirements. All of this has the dual effects of reducing support costs and streamlining flightline procedures for the crew-chiefs and avionics technicians."