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Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR)

The Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) will replace three pods on the F/A-18 (the TFLIR, the navigation FLIR and the laser designator tracker). It will be used on all models of the F/A-18, including the latest edition to the Hornet family, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The numerical performance values for the ATFLIR vs. earlier targeting pods are classified. However, performance values relative to early targeting systems are unclassified. The most significant difference is its ability to detect and discriminate targets at altitudes and ranges that are approximately double that of the AF LANTIRN and four times that of the Navy and Marine Nite Hawk. In addition, ATFLIR laser designation range for the GBU-24 is substantially greater than that of either the LANTIRN or the Nite Hawk. In a side by side video comparisons of military target imagery from the ATFLIR and LANTIRN pods the target recognition improvement due to a 10:1 increase in the number of pixels in the image is immediately evident.

The F/A-18C/D AN/AAS-38 and F/A-18E/F AN/AAS-46 Targeting FLIR (TFLIR) provides real time passive thermal imagery in television format, day or night, for detection and identification of tactical targets. The ATFLIR will combine the capability provided by the AN/AAS-38 or AN/AAS-46 TFLIR and the AN/AAR-55 NAVFLIR. This will in turn free up a fuselage station to accommodate an additional weapon. Each new F/A-18E/F aircraft will have an ATFLIR installed as it comes off the Boeing assembly line on the semi-recessed, fuselage "cheek" station - just aft of the engine inlet. This is the station that normally carries an AMRAAM or Sparrow missile. The program is expected to produce 574 shipsets, with 10 engineering development models.

ATFLIR, the world's first Generation III Targeting FLIR, was developed in response to a requirement for the pilot and WSO to be able to acquire a target with improved target recognition and at a greater standoff range. ATFLIR's magnification is 30X versus previous FLIR capabilities at 4x. An additional requirement to provide autonomous precision targeting coordinates to "smart" weapons, such as JSOW and JDAM, will be met with ATFLIR.

The ATFLIR acquisition strategy was to award a sole source EMD contract for the development, fabrication, test and integration of the ATFLIR into the F/A-18 C/D and E/F aircraft weapon systems. McDonnell Douglas Corporation (MDC), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company, as the sole designer, developer, and manufacturer of the F/A-18 aircraft weapon systems had the requisite knowledge, experience and technical data required to successfully complete the complex integration of the ATFLIR into the F/A-18 C/D and E/F aircraft weapon system in the time required. Accordingly the government selected MDC to provide the integrated ATFLIR capability as contractor furnished equipment.

McDonnell Douglas conducted a competitive source selection to determine the ATFLIR hardware subcontractor in accordance with its internal procedures. The Government announced its intent to have MDC run a technology demonstration at the onset of the ATFLIR program. Based on this intent and the incentive of a potential $1B production run, five supplier teams developed prototype ATFLIR systems with their own funds. In the case of the ATFLIR, an additional incentive for industry to make an investment in prototypes was the opportunity for the winner to "take all" and potentially sell advanced FLIR systems to JSF and foreign customers.

To ensure MDC was impartial in its ATFLIR subcontractor selection, the government was an observer of MDC's source selection process. The observation process allowed the government to conclude that Boeing's competition was fair and reasonable and best value for the Navy. The government concurred with Boeing's selection of Raytheon as the major subcontractor for ATFLIR development.

The ATFLIR program had a required Initial Operating Capability (IOC) date of May 2002 (to meet F/A-18E/F first deployment); however, the required FY 98/99 funding was not available. As a result, the government and contractor entered into an innovative commercial business contractual approach. With this EDM contract option approach, the government will not pay for fabrication of the EDMs until they are ready for delivery in October FY 00. This delivery date is when additional funding should be available from a POM 00 issue.

The Navy Advanced Targeting FLIR Program, which was initiated in 1997, was progressing well as of early 2001, and it was anticipated that it would successfully meet Navy requirements for a high altitude targeting system for laser guided weapons. The extension [in late 2000] of the development schedule back to the original schedule should permit the reduction of the angular jitter by the factor of two thus meeting the requirement. All other requirements are anticipated to being met.

The February 2001 Final Report of the Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force on Options for Acquisition of the Advanced Targeting Pod and Advanced Targeting FLIR Pod (ATP/ATFLIR) recommended that the Department continue with both the Navy's ATFLIR program and the Air Force ATP program as currently planned since it offered the most expeditious and cost-effective option to fielding a much needed capability. A redesign of the Navy version to accommodate Air Force needs for an in-pod cooling system may result in a pod that is too large for F-18 carrier operations.

ATFLlR performance during the April 2002 operational assessment was not satisfactory. For example, only 2 out of 7 laser guided bombs demonstrated acceptable performance, and fleet reliability was unsatisfactory.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:50:19 ZULU