Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

More than 250 US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16s are to be upgraded with an improved targeting capability developed for aircraft assigned to missions over Bosnia.

The upgrade is an outgrowth of Project Sure Strike, implemented at short notice in early 1997 to increase the bombing accuracy of F-16Cs deployed to Aviano AB in Italy to support United Nations operations in Bosnia.

The project involves installation of the improved data modem (IDM) in Block 40 F-16s assigned to the close air support mission, says John Debusk, director of USAF programmes at Lockheed Martin Tactical AircraftSystems. The IDM allows a ground-based forward air controller (FAC), with a laser rangefinder, to transmit target co-ordinates via UHF/VHF radio to an incoming aircraft for presentation on the headup display. This minimises the chance of attacking the wrong target.

Under Project Sure Strike, 38 Aviano-based Block 40 F-16Cs were equipped with the IDM. The fleet wide upgrade will include improved mission computer software enabling the full nine line FAC briefing, normally communicated by voice, to be displayed as a message on a multifunction display in the cockpit, according to Debusk. The upgraded software will be released in September, to improve the capability of Sure Strike-equipped F-16s.

There are no plans to equip operational aircraft with the target video datalink capability demonstrated last year under Project Gold Strike. "It's a question of funding," Debusk says. Gold Strike uses the IDM to transmit video images from the FAC to the aircraft. The system can also capture an image from the aircraft's LANTIRN targeting pod for transmission to the FAC or to another aircraft.

Source: Flight International