Lockheed Martin [LMT] and the U.S. Navy completed the first flight integrating the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATPs) with the Kuwait Air Force F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, the company said May 27.
The Sniper ATM detects, identifies, automatically tracks and laser-designates small tactical targets at long ranges while also supporting laser- and GPS-guided weapons against fixed and moving targets.
The company said this integration will give both existing and future Boeing [BA] Super Hornet fleets the ability to add the Sniper ATP’s “precision targeting and surveillance capabilities, which are critical to pilot survivability.”
The Kuwait Sniper ATPs will be located on Weapon Station 5, an area of the aircraft that can attach pods or weapons. The deployed Kuwait Super Hornets are expected to field the pod in late 2023.
“Integrating Sniper ATP onto Weapon Station 5, commonly known as the ‘cheek station,’ brings state-of-the-art tracking algorithms, two-way-data-link, and many other capabilities to the Kuwait F/A-18E/F crews that will positively impact the overall success of their missions. This also means that all F/A-18E/F customers will have the option of a reliable, easily maintainable and modern targeting pod,” Kenen Nelson, director of Fixed Wing Sensor Programs at Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control division, said in a statement.
Previously, the Navy conducted two successful flight tests of the Sniper pod before this point. First, in March a non-operational Sniper was flight-tested to verify the mechanics of the system at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The same month, flight-testing with an operational Sniper ATP occurred at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.
Lockheed Martin underscored that currently the Sniper ATP flies on Kuwait’s F/A-18C/D Hornets and Canadian CF-18 Hornets. Overall, over 27 countries and 15 types of aircraft use the Sniper ATP. This includes the F-2, F-15, F-16, F-18, A-10, B-1, B-52, Harrier, and Typhoon aircraft.
As the Kuwait Air Force transitions to using Super Hornets it will also receive the latest Sniper ATP configuration for use in that aircraft.
“The Sniper ATP provides an additional tool in the already robust Kuwait F/A-18 Super Hornet package. The Super Hornet provides the warfighter with enhanced situational awareness and Sniper ATP is an important part of our technology insertion plan and future growth of the platform,” Jessica Idleman, Boeing program manager for the Kuwait F/A-18 program, said.
Lockheed Martin also argued the Sniper is the lowest life cycle cost targeting pod on the market because it has a modular design and reliability exceeding 500 hours mean time between maintenance events.
In 2017, the Defense Department awarded Lockheed Martin a delivery order to provide 14 Sniper ATPs for Kuwait’s F/A-18C/D Hornets (Defense Daily, May 15, 2017).
Then in 2018, Qatar awarded the company a deal to deliver the Sniper ATPs to its Rafale aircraft starting in 2019. The Qatari Rafales became the 10th platform to use the Sniper ATP (Defense Daily, June 15, 2018)
In 2020, Lockheed Martin received a direct commercial sale contract from the United Arab Emirates air force and air defence for expedited delivery of Sniper ATPs and associated equipment, marking the first integration of the pods onto Mirage aircraft.