The Legion Pod, known for its advanced IRST (infrared search and track) capabilities, hit two major milestones at Eglin AFB with the first missile shot of an AIM-9X using the Legion Pod on an F-15C Eagle and the first-ever flight of an operational F-16 Fighting Falcon with the Legion Pod on Jul. 8 and 13, 2020, respectively.
As told by 1st Lt Savanah Bray, 53rd Wing, in the article Legion Pod achieves major milestones, the testing process for the Legion Pod is managed by the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force, a unique unit that reports to both Air Combat Command through the 53rd Wing and Air Force Material Command through the 96th Test Wing. Both test sorties were executed by the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron in the 53rd Wing.
“The OFP CTF’s work on the Legion Pod is done differently than the traditional acquisitions method,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Moser, commander, OFP CTF. “We actually started testing the pod in a Pre-Developmental Test (DT) phase in early 2019 and got it to an eighty percent solution before it ever entered the official developmental phase. This ultimately allowed us to go through the developmental and operational testing quicker. What would normally take several years has been reduced to eighteen months from the start of DT to expected fielding.”
Use of the Legion Pod and its IRST capabilities allows a pilot to have another sensor that integrates with the aircraft and builds a more complete picture of the battlespace. Because of its use of infrared, it provides the ability to identify, track and shoot enemy aircraft in a RADAR jamming environment to include stealth aircraft that a traditional radar may not see.
“COVID-19 has not slowed us down either,” said Moser, “Both the F-15C and F-16 teams have been doing phenomenal work under difficult conditions to rapidly field this new capability. These milestones are just one shining example of the synergies that can be achieved in a dual-MAJCOM unit that conducts integrated test management with a focus on the warfighter.”
The OFP CTF is known for its ability to significantly reduce the test timeline by integrating developmental and operational test from start to finish, requirements to fielding. This approach allows operational flight programs, and the hardware that integrates with them, like the Legion Pod, to be expeditiously fielded to the Combat Air Forces. The F-16 Legion Pod integration leveraged the previous achievements on the F-15C which reduced the test timeline on the F-16 from four years to only six months and saved the Air Force over $1 million in software design and integration costs, effectively “Bringing the Future Faster.”
Photo credit: TSgt John McRell and 1st Lt Savanah Bray / U.S. Air Force
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