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RAFO F-16s use ARS pod

November 29, 2007 (by Asif Shamim) - The Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) has fielded a new digital imagery intelligence system for the first time on its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 50s.

RAFO F-16C block 50 #810 has just touched down on the Thumraid AB runway concluding its delivery flight. [ photo]

BAE Systems announced on 27 November that it has successfully completed the in country commissioning of the Airborne Reconnaissance System (ARS) pod to Oman. This will be the first sale and deployment of the system.

The pod replaces wet-film intelligence-gathering equipment previously used by Oman's F-16 pilots on reconnaissance missions. The ARS can take pictures day or night at fighter-plane speeds and altitudes from 3,000 to 40,000 feet and at ranges up to 100 nautical miles. It has the largest focal length currently available for tactical reconnaissance missions.

"The increased focal length allows military personnel to take clear pictures or collect reconnaissance data from a greater, and therefore safer, distance," said Raymond Fricker, identification and surveillance program manager for BAE Systems in Greenlawn, New York. "This system can cover more area per minute than any other system available today."

Aircraft integration testing were completed earlier this year at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The ARS met all criteria for aircraft operations, image capture, carriage, handling, and safety during flight.

After the testing was complete the system was shipped to Oman for integration with the F-16 block 50s of RAFO.

BAE was awarded the $27.5 million foreign military sales contract from Oman in 2004. The deal constituted the delivery of two ARS pods and a BAE ground station.