November 20, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Robins Air Force Base signed a partnership agreement with Lockheed Martin to provide depot maintenance and long-term sustainment for the ATP Sniper pod.
The Sniper pod is a new, highly sophisticated advanced targeting pod and using latest in laser and global positioning applications, it can identify and engage enemy targets from long ranges and ensure delivery of munitions with great precision. The new system is a successor to the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night or LANTIRN
targeting pod also maintained at Robins under partnership with Lockheed. Lockheed manufactures both pods.
The Sniper pod is will offer the Air Force a significant increase in capability over the LANTIRN. The system gives the pilot the ability to recognize a target at four times the range of the LANTIRN pod. The laser spot tracker can even use laser targeting from another aircraft to deliver a precision bomb. So aircraft can work in tandem. This could not be done with the current LANTIRN system.
An initial buy of 200 Snipers has been funded, but the program is structured for 522 pods. It has already been flown on the F-15 and F-16 and tests on the A-10 will follow soon.
The LANTIRN program is still going to be around for many years however. LANTIRN has been updated recently, so it will be cascading down into a number of weapon systems. Sniper is the next generation but it's not necessarily a replacement. It just allows the Air Force to get more precision pods out there in the field.