What the pilot sees via the night vision (FLIR) equipment, can be captured for later examination, or transmitted immediately to the ground or another aircraft. Thus the current pods also serve as intelligence gathering devices. The U.S. Air Force is planning on buying nearly 600 of the new Sniper XR, as well as a built-in (to the aircraft) version for the F-35.
Fourteen years ago, the first targeting pods (the U.S. two pod LANTIRN system) were appearing. These electronic pods, that looked like a thin bomb, and were hung under the wing of fighters, and contained laser designators and night vision equipment. The LANTIRN got a workout in the 1991 Gulf War, even though the system was still undergoing testing. Israel soon followed with a cheaper (each LANTIRN cost two million dollars), more reliable and more capable Litening system. Currently, American manufacturers are fighting back with the Sniper XR system. All this competition has made the pods (one pod is all that is needed now) more capable, easier to use, more reliable and cheaper. Pilots can either snag GPS coordinates for a smart bomb it is carrying, or use a laser designator, to drop bombs with extreme accuracy. The latest pods can operate from as high as 50,000 feet altitude, which is outside the range of most anti-aircraft missiles.