February 7, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Braving heavy snow and low visibility, the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) has become the first of Lockheed Martin's international customers to conduct flight tests with PANTERA, the company's Precision Attack Navigation and Targeting pod.
Preliminary results indicated excellent PANTERA pod performance, consistent with similar reports from current testing of the comparable Sniper pod by the U.S. Air Force.
The flight tests were conducted in December by two M2 block 15
F-16 jets flying out of Bodo Air Base in Norway
. One of the two aircraft was configured with a PANTERA pod during the two-hour flights. PANTERA provided superior tracking performance and reliability in support of critical operational requirements for the RNoAF
over rugged mountain terrain and busy shipping lanes in Norway's extreme weather conditions. Additional flight-testing is planned.
PANTERA incorporates a high-resolution mid-wave third-generation forward looking infrared (FLIR
), infrared pointer, dual-mode laser, day television, laser spot tracker and advanced algorithms in a lightweight, aerodynamic pod.
PANTERA's long-range FLIR and TV imagery allows pilots to avoid enemy air defenses and preserve national assets. Its unique common aperture and rock- steady stabilization permits sub-sonic and supersonic performance not possible with other pods. The pod is designed for one-half the life cycle cost and much easier maintenance than all other targeting pods.
During the testing, all PANTERA's features were exercised, and all performed accurately," said Tom Simmons, vice president of the Combat Vision Center at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "The test runs were conducted with both FLIR and TV sensors using the combat and training lasers as well as the IR pointer. The laser spot tracking was also successfully performed in conjunction with a ground-based laser designator."
Lt. Col. Bard Solheim, the lead flight test pilot for the RNoAF, declared that the laser spot tracker "worked like a champ."
Following delivery of the first pod to Norway in September, members of Lockheed Martin's PANTERA team had traveled to Norway to conduct laser testing, as well as support electro-magnetic compatibility safety-of-flight tests. The team also conducted a familiarization course introducing RNoAF personnel to basic operation and maintenance of PANTERA. The RNoAF has contracted for an initial quantity of PANTERA pods, spares and support, with an option to order additional pods by mid-2004.
is also a potential PANTERA customer. The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNlAF
) recently completed an operational assessment of the PANTERA as part of its training deployment at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ. Flight test results are expected in the next few weeks.