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Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN, is a system for use on the Air Force's premier fighter aircraft -- the F-15E Eagle and F-16C/D Fighting Falcon, as well as the Navy's F-14 Tomcat. LANTIRN significantly increases the combat effectiveness of these aircraft, allowing them to fly at low altitudes, at night and under-the-weather to attack ground targets with a variety of precision-guided and unguided weapons.

LANTIRN consists of a navigation pod and a targeting pod integrated and mounted externally beneath the aircraft.

The AN/AAQ-13 navigation pod provides high-speed penetration and precision attack on tactical targets at night and in adverse weather. The navigation pod also contains a terrain-following radar and a fixed infrared sensor, which provides a visual cue and input to the aircraft's flight control system, enabling it to maintain a preselected altitude above the terrain and avoid obstacles. This sensor displays an infrared image of the terrain in front of the aircraft, to the pilot, on a head-up display. The navigation pod enables the pilot to fly along the general contour of the terrain at high speed, using mountains, valleys and the cover of darkness to avoid detection. The pod houses the first wide-field, forward-looking infrared navigation system for Air Force air-superiority fighters.

The AN/AAQ-14 targeting pod contains a high-resolution, forward-looking infrared sensor (which displays an infrared image of the target to the pilot), a laser designator-rangefinder for precise delivery of laser-guided munitions, a missile boresight correlator for automatic lock-on of AGM-65D imaging infrared Maverick missiles, and software for automatic target tracking. For a Maverick missile, the pod automatically hands the target off to the missile for launch with pilot consent. For a laser-guided bomb, the pilot aims the laser designator, and the bomb guides to the target. For a conventional bomb, the pilot can use the laser to determine range, then the pod feeds the range data to the aircraft's fire control system. The designator is a four-digit PRF-coded laser that can designate for its own weapons or for other acquisition devices or munitions. These features simplify the functions of target detection, recognition and attack and permit pilots of single-seat fighters to attack targets with precision-guided weapons on a single pass.

The research and development program began in September 1980 with Martin Marietta Corp. [now Lockheed Martin, Inc.], Orlando, Fla., as contractor. Initial operational test and evaluation of the LANTIRN navigation pod was successfully completed in December 1984. The Air Force approved low-rate initial production of the navigation pod in March 1985 and full-rate production in November 1986. The first production pod was delivered to the Air Force March 31, 1987.

In April 1986, initial operational test and evaluation of the LANTIRN targeting pod proved that a low-altitude, night, under-the-weather, precision attack mission was feasible. The Air Force approved low-rate initial production in June 1986. Introduction of the LANTIRN revolutionized night warfare by denying enemy forces the sanctuary of darkness.

Originally built for F-15E and F-16C/D fighters, LANTIRN was modified for the F-14 to include a global positioning system and an inertial navigation subsystem in the AN/AAQ-14 targeting pod [the F-14 does not carry the navigation pod]. The modification was ordered in response to a Navy decision to phase out the A-6 carrier-based ground-attack aircraft by mid-1996. The Navy has ordered LANTIRN targeting pods to equip a total of 19 F-14 Tomcat Strike Fighters. VF-103, the first Strike Fighter squadron which became operational in June 1996, saw action in Bosnia and Iraq while deployed aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). The LANTIRN pods flew a total of 1,575 hours on 750 sorties, with a mission availability rate of 93 percent. This LANTIRN upgrade is part of a broader initiative to add a ground attack capability and other improvements to 210 F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft (53 F-14Ds, 81 F-14Bs, and 76 F-14As). The F-14As of VF-154 on the USS Independence (CV 62), normally forward deployed in Yokosuka, Japan, were equiped with LANTIRN prior to their deployment to the Persian Gulf, as ar the F-14Bs of VF-102 on the USS George Washington (CVN 73).

An upgraded software package, installed beginning in 1999, for the LANTIRN pod allows the F-14 to more accurately employ weapons as well as record more accurate target coordinates. Using the Fast Tactical Imagery (FTI) system, the F-14A Aircrew can transmit digital images captured from the LANTIRN pod video to another Tomcat or to the Battle Group Commander. These images could be used for immediate attack by another aircraft, for damage assessment, for locating targets of opportunity, or simply for determining precise coordinates for targeting by other weapons.

The LANTIRN Bomb Impact Assessment (BIA) Modification Program, formerly known as the Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) Mod Program, consists of detailed design, manufacture, integration, and test of a radiometer, digital recorder, and portable data transfer device with the current LANTIRN Targeting Pod on F-15 aircraft. Software and hardware updates will also be completed on associated support equipment and image interpreter workstations. This modification would be done on existing LANTIRN targeting pods with no degradation in current mission performance and would be transparent to the pilot. A production/retrofit decision will be made following successful completion of the EMD program and authorization to proceed for retrofits of 43 Targeting Pods spread out over a three-year period. Delivery of the first production LANTIRN BIA Pod is anticipated to occur in January 2002.

The currently unfunded TESSA LANTIRN upgrade would integrate a 3rd Generation Staring Array into the existing LANTIRN Targeting pod. The upgrade will increase acquisition, identification and weapon employment ranges by a factor of four over the current 1st Generation Scanning Array in LANTIRN. This program will also incorporate an Automatic Target Cuer (ATC) to assist the WSO/Pilot in the detection and identification of targets in the viewing area. The ATC will provide a limited target recognition capability and display by class or vehicle type. The ATC performance is enhanced by incorporating an IMU for sensor stabalization. The upgrade improves standoff range (4-5 fold) for autonomous detection, acquisition, and attack of Time Critical Targets. It provides a higher probability of first-pass acquisition and attack of unsheltered mobile targets, enhances target re-acquisition following target hand-off from off-board sensors, and provides increased all-weather target acqusition , identification and assists in defeating passive CCD.


Primary function: Low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night flying
Contractor: Lockheed Martin, Inc.
Navigation pod
targeting pod
Length: 78.2 inches (1.99 meters)98.5 inches (2.51 meters)
Diameter: 12 inches (.31 meters)15 inches (.38 meters)
Weight: 470 pounds (211.5 kilograms)524 pounds (235.8 kilograms)
Sensors:Infrared and
terrain following radar
laser designator and ranging
Unit Cost: Navigation pod, $1.38 million targeting pod, $3.2 million
Aircraft: F-15E, F-16C/D, F-14
Introduction Date: March 1987

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Sunday, April 23, 2000 7:24:33 AM