September 30, 2007:
U.S. Air Force has successfully tested another two way digital data system for
combat aircraft. The QNT Datalink enables aircraft with targeting pods to share
their FLIR (video quality night vision infrared radar) and TV images of what's
on the ground, with troops on the ground, in real time. The targeting pod
cameras enable pilots flying at 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
been acting as aerial observers for ground forces. These new
capabilities also enable pilots to more easily find targets themselves, and hit
them with highly accurate laser guided or JDAM bombs.
The army already have
equipment that will get real-time video from aircraft (Rover III), and the QNT Datalink is a
competing product (with some additional features). The air force and navy plan
to equip more warplanes to share video with the ground troops, and vice versa.
This makes life easier for pilots and ground troops, because the same thing can
look different when seen from the air, or the ground. This real-time, two way
exchange of data also reduces the risks of friendly fire losses.
Some European nations are
also planning to use targeting pods for peacekeeping missions, where a few
warplanes could provide emergency assistance for widely dispersed peacekeeping
troops. The warplanes with the pod could see clearly what is happening on the
ground, and, if needed, drop a smart bomb precisely. With two way datacom, the
aircraft could also give the ground commander a better idea of what's going on
over a wide area.