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Eglin AFB test team proves Legion pod targeting capabilities

The Integrated Test Team at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., conducted the first-ever multi-platform operational test to effectively locate a target using shared Infra-Red Search and Track sensor data, April 7, 2022.

An F-15C Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, both equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Legion Pod, used the IRST21 infrared sensor to detect a target. The aircraft were then able to share that sensor data over the Legion pod’s Advanced Datalink to passively triangulate target position without the use of radar or other active ranging sources.

An F-16 and F-15 assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, prepare to test a datalink between two infrared search and track (IRST) pods, April 7, 2022. The successful flight test demonstrated the ability for two dissimilar aircraft to passively range a fighter target using IRST. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“IRST technology provides a key enabler in the long-range kill chain as well as the ability to locate targets in a multispectral domain,” said Lt Col. Jeremy Castor, Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force F-16 sensors program manager. “Any large-force scenario includes multiple aircraft types, each with different viewpoints of the battlespace. The ability to share data provides information to the warfighter they would not be able to get otherwise.”

The Legion Pod’s common interface allows integration onto any aircraft with minimal to no impact on the aircraft’s core software. This versatility opens the door for integration with minimal effort onto other fighter aircraft like the Air Force’s newest fighter, F-15EX.

“Our next step will be to explore the operationally relevant capabilities that IRST with an advanced datalink provides the warfighter,” said Castor. “The eventual goal is to provide this capability to anyone carrying an ADL Legion pod, regardless of platform.”

The first successful two-ship F-15 IRST ADL test occurred at Northern Edge in April 2021. The first successful two-ship F-16 IRST ADL test occurred December 2021 here. The successful completion of this F-15/F-16 test April 7 marks a milestone event in the program’s ongoing progress.

The two-week combined test team event was led by a collaborative effort between the OFP CTF, the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, the 40th Flight Test Squadron, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, and the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center F-15C Eagle Division.

An F-16 and F-15 assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, prepare to test a datalink between two infrared search and track (IRST) pods, April 7, 2022. The successful flight test demonstrated the ability for two dissimilar aircraft to passively range a fighter target using IRST. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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