419th FLTS demonstrates Sniper pod capability

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Hernandez
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The 419th Flight Test Squadron recently completed its initial developmental testing of the Sniper pod installed on a B-1B Lancer here. 

The Sniper pod, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is an advanced targeting pod with multi-sensor capability and allows the operator to positively identify targets.  

Currently, the B-1 cannot positively identify targets without additional aids such as other aircraft or personnel on the ground, said Maj. Jacque Joffrion, 419th FLTS B-1 flight commander and experimental test pilot. 

The Sniper pod increases the aircraft's self-targeting capability, he said. 

"The positive target identification capability of the targeting pod is what enhances reconnaissance and weapon employment for the B-1," said Maj. Joshua Lane, 419th FLTS chief of standardization and evaluation and experimental test weapon system officer.  "In addition, the targeting pod allows the operator to see behind the aircraft for a 360-degree sensor view." 

The B-1 provides a good platform for using the Sniper pod because of its unique capabilities, Major Lane said. The B-1 carries the largest and most diverse weapon payload of any U.S. aircraft and can also loiter for extended lengths of time providing a persistent presence to the battlefield.  

The aircraft's combination of long loitering, positive target identification and large payload gives warfighters a unique asset to better support the war effort, he said. 

During the testing, the pod was attached to the left hand chin of the aircraft using existing mounting points, Major Joffrion said.  The external attach points were initially designed to allow the B-1 to carry cruise missiles externally.  These hard points were modified to attach the targeting pod through a pylon assembly.

The B-1 uses other connections and onboard equipment to communicate with the Sniper pod, Major Lane said. To communicate with the Sniper pod, power and control connections must be supplied from the aircraft to the pod. The current design uses the conduit from the hard points to route the required wiring to the pod from the aircraft. 

Inside the aircraft, aircrew control the pod using a hand controller and notebook computer, Major Lane said.  The pod provides a video feed to the computer, while the hand controller connects to the pod through an on-board Ethernet. 

The 419th FLTS performed the third and final test of the Sniper pod with GBU-31 and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition drops, Major Lane said. 

"The significance of this test was to complete the demonstration of target identification and to provide post-strike bomb damage assessment," Major Lane said. "This capability is important for combat operations to provide near real-time feedback strike assessment for theater commanders.  During this sortie, two initial looks of weapon separation characteristics were also tested using the guided bomb units." 

Before the pod can be put into service on the B-1, the 419th FLTS must determine the aerodynamic interaction between the pod and the aircraft, Major Joffrion said.  Tests were completed to determine if the pod would disrupt air flow that could result in adverse weapon separation characteristics.  These studies were intended to provide future data for more in-depth weapon separation tests under many more employment regimes, he said.  

"The testing was an integrated demonstration designed to provide a proof of concept pod for the B-1," Major Lane said. "The initial demonstration was very successful and shows promise for full integration onto the B-1 Bomber."