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Belgian Air Force buys eight Sniper XR targeting pods

April 3, 2006 (by Stefaan Ellebaut) - Under an agreement with Lockheed Martin, the Belgian ministry of defence signed an agreement for the purchase of 8 Pantera targeting pods to boost up the existing supply of 8 LANTIRN pods already in use with the Belgian Air Component.

Pantera targetting pod on RNoAF F-16BM #689. [Photo by Dirk A. Geerts]

Belgium is the second European country to select the Pantera pod for its F-16AM fleet as part of the ongoing MLU program, following Norway who acquired it in 2002.

Pantera is the export equivalent to the Lockheed Martin Sniper Extended Range (XR) targeting pod.

The design is based on a mid-1990s candidate for the US Navy advanced targeting pod system. The wedge-nosed, long-range targeting pod design features a third-generation mid-wave FLIR system, diode-pumped laser operating up to 40,000 feet altitude, enhanced stabilization, a laser spot-tracker, laser marker, CCD television camera and a combat-identification capability. Its modular design has half the parts count of the company's LANTIRN targeting pod, is self-boresighting, requires two-level maintenance (flight line and depot) and can be disassembled quickly with common hand tools.

Slightly shorter than its Lantirn predecessor, the 440lb Sniper pod has a 30cm diameter. The pod's wedge-shaped nose is made of highly durable sapphire which is transparent to visible and infrared wavelengths, and presents extreme durability to impact and damage. The unique design gives Sniper a semi-low-observable characteristic, but also makes it compatible with fighters carrying the system on an engine inlet. At supersonic speeds, an oblique shock surface forming on the pod reduces disturbances in air entering the inlet.

Some of these modules are repackaged in a targeting system designed for the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter. To preserve stealth characteristics, the system is carried internally, with a window beneath the fighter's nose.

Download: Pantera fact sheet (PDF - 224 kb)

Additional images:

RNoAF F-16AM #677 is equipped with GBU-12's, AIM-120 and AIM-9 missiles and a Pantera pod on January 18th, 2005. [RNoAF photo]

Sniper XR (eXtended Range) pod. [LMTAS photo]