The US Navy Shared Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP) system is the primary tactical reconnaissance system deployed by US Navy carrier Air Groups. SHARP replaces the current Carrier Air Wing tactical reconnaissance capability provided by the film-based F-14 TARPS (Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System). Fleet introduction of the SHARP system on the F/A-18F Super Hornet began with early operational capability on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in 2003. Recently, the pod has been successfully flown as part of a rapid-deployment initiative in support of fielded operations.
Raytheon is enhancing the US Navy Shared Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP) system with a new target cueing system. The new feature is designed to reduce the workload of image analysts. With the TCS upgrade, the system’s tactical imaging sensor will deliver more refined information to the image analyst. By reducing the amount of manual labor required of the analyst to make identifications, specific targets can be more quickly located and action taken. Under the contract, Raytheon Technical Systems will manage all aspects of the TCS program, including selection and acquisition of the sensors, design integration, manufacture of an upgraded pod design, and coordination of flight testing for the system on an F/A-18E/F aircraft.
The SHARP pod incorporates a rotating mid-section to optimize coverage, to protect the window by allowing stowage under the strongback, and to reduce the size and life-cycle expense of large fixed windows. The pod’s design also provides mobility — it mounts on a bomb rack like a smart weapon — allowing for more flexibility in reconnaissance mission planning. Although the initial systems employ electro-optical/infrared sensors for use on the F/A-18E/F aircraft, the pod design is readily adaptable to many sensor payloads on a wide range of aircraft.