Digital F-14s Get the Picture—Fast
By Commander Mark L. Bathrick, U.S. Navy
Two aircraft launch from a forward-deployed carrier toward a potential target in hostile territory. One is equipped with the Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) fitted with the prototype digital imagery (DI) camera, air-to-air weapons, and two laser-guided bombs. The other carries the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) Targeting System (LTS), air-to-air missiles, and two laser-guided bombs.
Their target is mobile—a ballistic missile launcher—but it could just as well be fixed. Intelligence has given them the launcher's most likely location. The first aircraft uses its TARPS (DI) to image the target, and transmits it back to the warfare commander for positive target identification. Confirmation comes less than ten minutes later, whereupon the wingman drops a laser-guided bomb and obtains bomb hit assessment (BHA) on tape using the aircraft's forward looking infrared (FLIR).