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Test squadron demonstrates Sniper pod capability

by Senior Airman Jason Hernandez
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

2/28/2007 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNEWS) -- Members of the 419th Flight Test Squadron here recently completed its initial developmental testing of the Sniper pod installed on a B-1B Lancer, designed to increase the aircraft's self-targeting capability.

The Sniper pod, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is an advanced targeting pod with multi-sensor capability and allows the operator to positively identify targets.

Currently, the B-1B cannot positively identify targets without additional aids such as other aircraft or people on the ground, said Maj. Jacque Joffrion, the 419th FLTS B-1B flight commander and an experimental test pilot. 

The positive target identification capability of the targeting pod is what enhances reconnaissance and weapon employment for the B-1B, said Maj. Joshua Lane, the 419th FLTS chief of standardization and evaluation and an experimental test weapon system officer. 

"In addition, the targeting pod allows the operator to see behind the aircraft for a 360-degree sensor view," Major Lane said.

The B-1B provides a good platform for using the Sniper pod because of its unique capabilities, Major Lane said. The B-1B carries the largest and most diverse weapon payload of any U.S. aircraft and can also loiter for extended lengths of time providing a persistent presence to the battlefield.

The aircraft's combination of long loitering, positive target identification and large payload gives warfighters a unique asset to better support the war effort. 

The pod was attached to the left hand chin of the aircraft using existing mounting points during testing, Major Joffrion said. The external attach points were initially designed to allow the B-1B to carry cruise missiles externally. These hard points were modified to attach the targeting pod through a pylon assembly.

To communicate with the Sniper pod, power and control connections must be supplied from the aircraft to the pod. The current design uses the conduit from the hard points to route the required wiring to the pod from the aircraft.

Inside the aircraft, aircrew control the pod using a hand controller and notebook computer, Major Lane said. The pod provides a video feed to the computer, while the hand controller connects to the pod through an on-board Ethernet.

Members of the 419th FLTS performed the third and final test of the Sniper pod with GBU-31 and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition drops.

"The significance of this test was to complete the demonstration of target identification and to provide post-strike bomb damage assessment," Major Lane said. "This capability is important for combat operations to provide near real-time feedback strike assessment for theater commanders. During this sortie, two initial looks of weapon separation characteristics were also tested using the guided bomb units." 

419th FLTS officials must determine the aerodynamic interaction between the pod and the aircraft before the pod can be put into service on the B-1B, Major Joffrion said. Tests were completed to determine if the pod would disrupt air flow that could result in adverse weapon separation characteristics. These studies were intended to provide future data for more in-depth weapon separation tests under many more employment regimes.

"The testing was an integrated demonstration designed to provide a proof of concept pod for the B-1," Major Lane said. "The initial demonstration was very successful and shows promise for full integration onto the B-1 bomber."

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