Picture looks clear for UAE reconnaissance pod
Though the UAE closed down its US-based F-16 training operation in October 2010, the Emiratis continue to maintain a small fleet of Block 60 F-16s in the USA for testing new systems, weapons and capabilities.
These aircraft, normally based at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant, have been used recently for clearing new weapons.
In late October they were seen testing the new DB-110 reconnaissance pod. The UAE announced at the 2011 IDEX show that an AED 297 million contract had been placed for the pod.
The DB-110 dual-band EO and IR sensor has a 110in focal length and provides an imaging capability for long, medium, and short stand-off ranges, including oblique and vertical imaging, in a single sensor package.
The sensor was derived from U-2’s senior year electro-optical reconnaissance system (SYERS), which had itself been developed by what was then Litton’s Itek division in the early 1990s, and which was claimed to be the world’s first dual-band, real-time reconnaissance system, exploiting the emerging ability to record photo-quality digital images and transmit them to the user in near-real-time via a high bandwidth data link, with the ability to view and edit imagery on the cockpit displays.
Itek was subsequently acquired by Hughes which was, in turn, purchased by Raytheon, which then sold off the division to BF Goodrich.
The new pod was originally purpose-built to meet an RAF requirement for a compact digital long-range oblique photography (LOROP) system that could fit in a recce pod carried by the Tornado. The resulting reconnaissance airborne pod for Tornado (RAPTOR) was introduced into RAF service in 2002.
The Tornado RAPTOR pod was then used as the basis of a similar reconnaissance pod designed for carriage by fighter-sized aircraft like the F-16 and the F/A-18. This, known simply as the DB-110 pod, successfully completed flight-testing as part of the F-16 Poland peace sky programme in January 2007. Since then, the pod has become one of the options offered to all new F-16 export customers, and is in service or being supplied to Egypt, Greece, Morocco, Pakistan and Poland, while BAE’s rival F-9120 advanced airborne reconnaissance systems (AARS) pod has been delivered only to the Royal Air Force of Oman.
The same basic pod is also used by OP-3C Orion aircraft of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), and has been demonstrated on the MQ-9A Reaper UAV, demonstrating the DB-110 system’s utility on unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.
The UAE contract covers the supply of six DB-110 reconnaissance pods and three ground-based, image exploitation systems for the Block 60 F-16E/Fs used by the UAE Air Force and Air Defence. Work will be performed by Goodrich’s ISR Systems facilities in the USA and the UK.