May 26, 2010:
Saudi Arabia is buying $40 million worth of American Sniper ATP pods for its F-15S fighter-bombers. Not all the 71 F-15Ss need these ground attack and reconnaissance pods at once, as some are used for bombing missions that do not need the pod's capabilities. These pods, costing about $2 million each, contain FLIR (video quality night vision infrared radar) and TV cameras that enable pilots flying at 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) to clearly make out what is going on down there. The pods also contain laser designators for laser guided bombs, and laser range finders that enable pilots to get coordinates for JDAM (GPS guided) bombs. Safely outside the range of most anti-aircraft fire (five kilometers up, and up to fifty kilometers away), pilots can literally see the progress of ground fighting, and have even been acting as aerial observers for ground forces. These capabilities also enable pilots to more easily find targets themselves, and hit them with highly accurate laser guided or JDAM bombs. While bombers still get target information from ground controllers for close (to friendly troops) air support, they can now go searching on their own, in areas where there are no friendly ground troops.
Canada has bought the Sniper ATP for its CF-18s and Britain for its Harrier GR7s and GR9s. The United States uses them on F-15, F-16, A-10 and B-1 warplanes. Versions for the B-52, Tornado, Typhoon and some UAVs are also in development.