Home Military Aviation US Navy Looks to Replace or Improve F/A-18 Super Hornet’s ATFLIR Targeting Pod

US Navy Looks to Replace or Improve F/A-18 Super Hornet’s ATFLIR Targeting Pod

by Dario Leone
US Navy Looks to Replace or Improve F/A-18 Super Hornet’s ATFLIR Targeting Pod

The Targeting Pod shall be supportable until the end of the F/A-18E/F projected service life (approximately 2045).

The US Navy is seeking qualified sources that can provide an Electro Optic/Infrared (EO/IR) air-to-air and air-to-surface targeting pod capability focused on reducing the overall operating and support cost on its Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters.

According to the post of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) “In an effort to enhance sustainment capabilities while lowering life cycle and ownership cost, the F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office is exploring Non-Developmental Item (NDI) procurement options to either augment or replace the existing Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod inventory. The NDI system must be currently fielded on tactical strike/fighter aircraft within the Department of Defense (DoD) portfolio and must have an active production line or the ability to establish one with limited to no startup costs and capacity to support production of 250 Pods FY22-FY29.

VFA-2 F/A-18F
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“The Government does not presently intend to award a contract but wants to obtain technical capabilities, system sustainment and supportability philosophies, pricing, schedule, and other market information for planning purposes. Follow-up questions may be asked of responders for clarification during the Capabilities Presentations, but this will not indicate a selection of preference. This is not a commitment to fund any effort submitted in response to this request. Any costs related to preparation of a response to this RFI is borne by the party submitting the response.

The EO/IR Targeting Pod referenced in this RFI will be carried on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. This multi-mission strike fighter performs the missions of Anti-Air Warfare (AAW); Amphibious Warfare; Anti-Surface Ship Warfare; Strike Warfare; and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. These missions require an EO/IR Targeting Pod to perform optical combat identification, tracking, and/or weapons guidance against targets during day and night conditions, from rural to highly urbanized terrain. The NDI system shall provide F/A-18E/F aircraft the capability to engage air-to-air and air-to-surface targets independently and/or in concert with the other components of the Federated System. The proposed NDI system shall be supportable until the end of the F/A-18E/F projected service life (approximately 2045). The Targeting Pod shall support 25 operational squadrons, each requiring eight (8) “up” (fully operational) pods at any given time, twenty (20) “up” (fully operational) pods to support the Fleet Recognizance Squadron (FRS), and Eight (8) “up” (fully operational) pods to support test squadrons. Information provided via this request will be used to evaluate and assess the feasibility, complexity and affordability of a replacement EO/IR Targeting Pod to support an initial fielding of CY 2023.”

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Raytheon’s ATFLIR pod assures mission success by integrating advanced EO and IR sensors with one of the most powerful lasers on the market. ATFLIR can locate and designate targets day or night at ranges exceeding 40 nautical miles and altitudes surpassing 50,000 feet, outperforming comparable targeting systems. As a powerful net-enabler, it can pass tracking and targeting information to other nodes in the networked battlespace with the speed and precision.

The streamlined ATFLIR integrates laser tracking and infrared targeting functions on F/A-18 aircraft into a single compact pod, freeing an air-to-air weapon station for other mission requirements. An IR marker has been inserted and integrated on ATFLIR and will enter production soon.

US Navy Looks to Replace or Improve F/A-18 Super Hornet’s ATFLIR Targeting Pod
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Photo credit: Raytheon

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