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Advanced targeting pod on B-52s, not just for reservists anymore

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erica Stewart
  • 36th Operations Group public affairs
Almost 70 years ago the Army Air Corps proved to the world their aviation rivaled the Navy's when they were able to simulate capture of the SS REX, a fine Italian cruise line ship.

Last year, the B-52 community at Barksdale AFB proved that technological advances have further solidified our place as the world's premiere air power by re-enacting that mission with help from a LITENING AT, a 440 pound, 87-inch, externally mounted cylinder-shaped targeting pod used to quickly and efficiently locate targets.

The B-52s issued the same challenge as their cousins from the early 20th century: Threaten us and you will pay the price, for we can find you even in the vast emptiness of the ocean and destroy you, according to an article from the Shreveport Times.

This year, the 96th EBS, deployed to Andersen in support of the continuous bomber presence, is using the LITENING AT, on loan from the 93d Bomb Squadron, U.S Air Force Reserve, support the Air Force mission in the Western Pacific.

"93d Bomb Squadron provided qualification training and the advanced targeting pods to the 96th EBS in order to make this happen," said Lt. Col. Steven Smith, 93rd BS advanced targeting pod expert. "It took a combined effort to get to where we are now."

Because of this combined effort, the borrowed pods are now being used to aid in the continuous bomber presence mission.

"When we combine Litening AT with the B-52's long range and significant weapons capacity, the result is lots of precision firepower coupled with persistence over the target area and noo potential enemy in their right mind wants to deal with that," said Lt. Col. Patrick Matthews, 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander.

"This capability on the B-52 will deter aggression and provide United States Pacific Command with considerable flexibility, enhances regional security and demonstrates our commitment to the western pacific region," he said.

Because of the precision targeting pod's high-resolution, forward-looking infrared sensor, laser spot tracker, laser marker, and a fully operational remotely operated video enhanced receiver with compatible video down link, the advanced device improves rapid target detection and identification.

"While deployed to Andersen we do a lot of aerial bombing missions utilizing test ranges around the world," said Capt. Gavin Berne, 96th EBS advanced targeting pod expert. "Normally we would get coordinates from a joint terminal attack controller that is just an estimate but, by using the LITENING AT we are able to use a laser and obtain exact coordinates which improves accuracy."

In addition to having a laser marker to improve accuracy, the externally mounted camera allows pilots to positively identify stationary and moving targets which minimizes the chances of fratricide. 

"Having video function has been an invaluable resource concerning ISR because we have the capability of immediately sending that video to anyone, anywhere in the world with our Evolutionary Data Link," said Captain Berne. "The pod also allows us to estimate collateral damage which makes the B-52 more effective in a combat situation."

From the 1920's to 2008, the mission of the long range bomber remains but through technological advances, like the LITENING AT, they are able to accomplish their mission much more accurately and effectively.

"The Litening AT gives an old dog like the B-52 a new trick," Colonel Matthews said. "The B-52 is more capable to perform close air support for ground units and sea surveillance, or to take the fight directly to the enemy's heart in a strategic attack role which makes us even more adept at executing all the Air Force's combat missions so, this old dog is learning the new trick very well."

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