The Lockheed Martin-built Sniper advanced targeting pod (ATP) has secured operational flight status on the US Air Force’s (USAF) B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber aircraft.
The activation of ATP B-52 site activation at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, US, makes the Sniper ATP the only operational targeting pod across six USAF fighter and bomber aircraft platforms.
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control fixed wing programs director Ken Fuhr said the operational flight status of the Sniper ATP on the B-52 offers the pod’s flexibility and advanced capabilities to additional warfighters.
”Sniper integration will provide aircrews with critical long-range, positive target identification and video datalink capability, along with an updated software suite that streamlines the targeting process and improves crew safety,” Fuhr said.
Designated as an AN/AAQ-33, the Sniper ATP helps pilots in positive target identification, autonomous tracking, coordinate generation, precise weapons guidance and non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) in all weather conditions.
In addition to a laser spot tracker for acquisition of other laser spots from air and ground assets, the pod also includes an infrared marker for soldiers using night vision goggles, as well as a video down link to provide ground forces with enhanced situational awareness.
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Additional features include high-resolution, mid-wave forward looking infra red (FLIR) and TV sensors, which are used in combinationwith a dual-mode laser to enable eye-safe operation and precise geo-location in urban environments.
Extensively used during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, the pods are currently installed onboard the USAF and multinational F-16, F-15, B-1, F-18, Harrier GR7/9, A-10C and CF-18 aircraft.
In addition to this, the US Air National Guard (ANG) uses Sniper ATPs on their fixed-wing aircraft for conducting long-range detection, identification and surveillance support missions.
Image: A Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod mounted under the wing of a USAF B-52 bomber aircraft. Photo courtesy of US Air Force.