China is developing a low-altitude navigation pod to provide strike aircraft with all-weather terrain following and target-identification capability.
The 200kg Blue-Sky pod is being developed by the China Leihua Electronic Technology Institute (CLETRI), and is believed to have been test-flown already. The pod is fitted with radar and infra-red sensors, with the forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) sensor mounted above the radar antenna.
CLERTI claims that the FLIR has a range of 9km (5nm), with the radar providing a 10km detection range. The pod is said to have flight clearance down to a height of 200ft (60m).The most likely candidate aircraft for the Blue Sky pod include the Chengdu JH-7 fighter-bomber aircraft, now in flight test, and the Chengdu FC-1.
Alongside the low-altitude navigation pod, China is also thought to be working on a laser-designator pod. It has already shown what it claims to be an indigenously developed laser-guided bomb kit.
The UK's GEC-Marconi has produced a brochure on the FC-1 which shows it fitted with its Thermal Imaging Airborne Laser Designator (TIALD) as well as several other avionics and defensive-aids systems.
GEC admits that it does not have export clearance to provide the TIALD laser designator to China, describing the brochure as merely illustrating pieces of equipment which, potentially, "-could become available".