McDonnell DOUGLAS (MDC) has begun modifying an F-15D for flight tests of a reconnaissance pod beginning in March. A modified F-15 will be offered to meet an emerging US Air Force requirement for a successor to the cancelled Advanced Tactical Air Reconnaissance System (ATARS).

The pod will be installed on an F-15D leased from the USAF for use as a testbed to demonstrate technology for an upgraded, multi-role version of the air-superiority fighter (Flight International, 30 November - 6 December 1994).

Between six and eight flights are planned to confirm the quality and resolution of the imagery from the pod's medium-altitude electro-optical sensor and infra-red line scanner, says Jim Caldwell, MDC's general manager of F-15 new business. The sensors were developed for the ATARS and are being used by MDC in a reconnaissance F-18 for the US Marine Corps.

Caldwell says that the USAF is defining its requirements for a tactical-reconnaissance programme and is expected to make a decision on whether to proceed by the middle of the year. Lockheed is expected to compete with a pod designed to be carried by the F-16 and flight-tested in the mid-1980s.

MDC plans to develop other uses for the centreline pod, including housing electronic-warfare systems to enable the F-15 to be offered as a replacement for the USAF's Grumman EF-111 tactical-jammer, Caldwell says.

Source: Flight International