All branches of armed forces are evaluating video downlink technology following successful demonstrations in 2004

Upgrading third-generation targeting pods with a video downlink system is now under review by the three US military branches operating the equipment.

Chief of naval operations, Adm Vernon Clark, has requested a report on adding the capability to the Raytheon ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod on order for the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fleet, says Capt Don Gaddis, F/A-18 programme manager.

The request comes amid ongoing reviews by the US Air Force and US Marine Corps considering the same upgrade for the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR pod and the Northrop Grumman/Rafael Litening II pod, respectively.

Interest in the radio frequency downlink from fighters to ground stations is driven by a successful demonstration involving streaming video transmissions from a General Atomics MQ-1 Predator unmanned air vehicle to a simple USMC ground station.

The downlink technology is based on an L-3 Communications product called Real Time Video for the Warfighter (Rover) III. Lockheed says it demonstrated Rover in November 2004 during a test of the Pantera pod in Norway.

The need for the downlink capability comes as the USN has agreed to a third full-rate production contract for ATFLIR, bringing Raytheon's total orders on contract to 215 pods. Despite this, the USN also is considering whether to invest in the Litening and Sniper XR in order to speed deliveries.

"Both the Navy and the Marine Corps need an [electro-optic/infrared] third-generation targeting system ASAP and I think that has a lot more to do with Sniper and Litening being in play than the competition aspect," says Gaddis. "From a lifecycle cost standpoint, none of the competition's strategies was compelling enough to change" from the ATFLIR purchase plan.


Source: Flight International