Goodrich Corporation has been awarded a US$72 million contract to equip Lockheed-Martin F-16 fighters of the Pakistan Air Force with five DB-110 dual-band (visual/IR) reconnaissance pods. The systems will be delivered with two fixed ground stations and one mobile ground station, each equipped with one datalink receiving system (a total of four ground receiving datalinks will be delivered).
The Pakistan Air Force plans to augment the new capability by establishing a ‘reconnaissance fusion center’, the current contract funds the initial study of such facility to be provided by Goodrich. The U.S. Air Force is assigning a private U.S. company to train Pakistani operators and technicians in supporting the new systems.
The Pakistani air force is already operating two similar recce pods, which will now be modified with suitable datalinks to match the new ground stations. According to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency ex-U.S. Air Force F-16A/B fighters transferred to the Pakistani Air Force in 2008 were prepared to operate reconnaissance pods. No such capability was mentioned for the new F-16 Block 52 aircraft although it is likely that the pods will also be employed by these fighters.
The DB-110 operates autonomously on the F-16, controlled by the pod’s reconnaissance management system. Imagery can be viewed on the F-16’s cockpit video display, enabling the pilot to verify targets and conduct tasks such as battle damage assessment. The real-time display also gives the pilot or aircrew more flexibility selecting alternate route to a selected target or seeking out targets of opportunity.
Goodrich’s DB-110 pod has become a standard reconnaissance pod for the F-16, included in almost every new sales package of this aircraft. The pod is operational with the Polish and Hellenic NATO Air Forces, Recent sales were authorized for the UAE, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Oman. The pod is also operated in its original ‘Raptor’ configuration, on Tornado GR4 and Japanese P-3C maritime patrol aircraft. Saudi Arabia has also been offered 10 DB-110 pods, yet to be integrated on their F-15SA Eagle as part of the latest multi-billion shopping spree of U.S. arms.
More recently the DB-110 system has also been modified to operate on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) such as the Reaper – demonstrating the capability to operate simultaneously with other UAV sensor systems, including full motion video short range imaging payloads, radars and weapons.