Lockheed Martin has received a $13 million contract from the Air Force to upgrade approximately 200 Sniper targeting pods with a more-capable digital data link. Called the Compact Multi-band Data Link, this upgrade will enable digital transmission of high-definition imagery and metadata between aircrews and ground troops at extended ranges, said company officials during a Sept. 10 telecon. Sniper was designed as a target designator for air-dropped munitions, but pilots have applied its sophisticated imaging capability in Afghanistan and Iraq to support roles like convoy escort and making reconnaissance sweeps. “For a pod designed to go out and destroy enemy air defenses, it has some great capabilities for non-traditional [intelligence, surveillance-reconnaissance],” said Brig. Gen. Scott Williams, commander of the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing, during the telecon. His F-16 unit carries Sniper, as do other USAF A-10Cs, B-1s, F-15Es, and F-16s. (Lockheed Martin press release)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.