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 ST. LOUIS, July 19 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 pilots are using new Nite Hawk Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR)pods equipped with Laser Target Designator/Rangers (LTD/R) to autonomously deliver laser-guided bombs on target.
 Hornets equipped with the FLIR-LTD/R pods are among U.S. aircraft that Secretary of Defense Les Aspin has authorized be part of NATO air support for United Nations ground forces in Bosnia.
 The FLIR-LTD/R pod enables the F/A-18 to mark a target with a laser beam, which a laser-guided weapon can then follow to hit the target with pinpoint precision. Previously, F/A-18s had to use lasers from the ground or other aircraft to mark targets so they could deliver precision-guided weapons. These weapons include laser-guided versions of the Mk.-80 series of general purpose bombs (500 pounds, 1,000 pounds and 2,000 pounds) and the laser-guided Maverick missile.
 Hornet exercises in Kuwait, Nevada and Arizona are verifying the F/A-18's ability to autonomously deliver laser-guided munitions with pinpoint accuracy. Navy and Marine Corps commanders say this is especially important in today's combat environment, where it is considered unacceptable to hit anything but the specified target.
 Delivery of the new FLIR-LTD/R pods began in January 1993 to forward deployed Hornet squadrons in the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf. Deliveries to other Navy and Marine Corps fleet squadrons are continuing throughout the year.
 Three pilots from Navy squadrons VFA-146 and VFA-147, forward deployed onboard the USS Nimitz, were the first in the Hornet fleet to use the new FLIR-LTD/R pods to drop laser-guided bombs. Cmdr. Bill Pokorney, commanding officer of VFA-146, Cmdr. Tom Surbridge, commanding officer of VFA-147, and Lt. Jerome Pinckney of VFA-146 scored direct hits on tanks at the Udairi target range in Kuwait in May.
 The two squadrons, based in the United States at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., are continuing to use the FLIR-LTD/R pods to drop laser-guided bombs during their current cruise.
 During a June deployment at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., Marine Corps Hornet pilots from VMFA(AW)-533 successfully used the FLIR-LTD/R pods to drop and autonomously guide three laser-guided bombs on targets. In addition, they were able to use the laser to mark a target for another F/A-18 that was carrying a laser-guided Maverick missile.
 Eight F/A-18s from VMFA(AW)-533 left their home base at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., for Italy July 19. Operating from Aviano Air Base, they are part of NATO air support for U.N. forces in Bosnia.
 The FLIR-LTD/R pod gives F/A-18 pilots the "ability to (autonomously) drop precision-guided munitions day or night. We can go in high and fast and drop a precision-guided weapon on target, record it relatively easily, and get out and basically be untouched," says Navy Cmdr. Rich O'Hanlon, commanding officer of VFA-37, one of two Hornet squadrons onboard the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy to be outfitted with the pods.
 The Hornet's new capability to self-lase a target will be very important in future missions for the Navy and Marine Corps, says Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dave Rash, commander of VMFA(AW)-533. "An aircraft that has the capability to autonomously lase a target, use a laser to designate the target and then to deliver a laser-guided weapon onto that target is essential in the modern battlefield," he says. "Now that the Hornet has fielded a targeting FLIR pod that has that capability, it's going to be a significant increase in the capability of the airplane and one that I think will be used extensively in any future conflicts."
 Marine Corps 1st. Lt. M.J. Parish, who used the FLIR-LTD/R pod to drop a laser-guided bomb on a target at a range near Yuma, Ariz., describes it as "an awesome tool. I could pinpoint a target by myself very quickly without having to worry about somebody else lasing it for me or having a FAC (forward air controller) on the ground anywhere close who can lase it for me on the ground."
 Two-hundred fifteen targeting FLIRS and 435 F/A-18C/D models in the U.S. fleet are configured to accommodate the LTD/R. All the laser subsystems for this equipment will be delivered by mid-1994. The Newport Beach, Calif.-based Aeronutronic Division of Loral Aerospace manufactures the targeting pod. Loral is a major subcontractor to McDonnell Douglas, the prime contractor for the F/A-18.
 Previously, the only Navy carrier-based tactical aircraft that could simultaneously illuminate and deliver laser-guided weapons was the A-6E Intruder. Navy plans now call for the retirement of the A-6E from the flight decks by 1999. The mission of precision laser-guided weapon delivery is shifting to the F/A-18 Hornet.
 Using the targeting FLIR (with the LTD/R), Hornet pilots can locate and identify targets at long ranges. As an F/A-18 approaches its target, the targeting pod is commanded to autotrack the target. Steering commands from the Hornet's mission computers tell the pilot where to release a laser-guided weapon. Once released, the laser designator is automatically energized, illuminating the target with laser energy so that the weapon's guidance package can steer it to the laser spot for precise weapon delivery.
 The LTD/R also provides precise range information to the Hornet's mission computers. Typically, the F/A-18's multimode radar determines range and line-of-sight data for air-to-ground targets. Now, the LTD/R can be a ranging sensor and provide the F/A-18 weapon control computers with exact range information to the target.
 All F/A-18s delivered since October 1989 are equipped with sensors and systems that allow pilots and weapons and systems officers to maneuver and operate the Hornet as aggressively at night as they would during the day. The addition of the LTD/R to the targeting pod on these Night Strike Hornets makes them precision night strike fighters that can deliver their ordnance with unequaled accuracy around the clock.
 McDonnell Douglas performs final assembly of the F/A-18 Hornet at its St. Louis plant, where nearly 7,000 people are associated with the program. Principal subcontractors are Northrop, which makes the center and aft fuselage, engine manufacturer General Electric and Hughes Aircraft, which supplies the radar. Employees at more than 2,000 U.S. companies in 43 states help produce the F/A-18.
 Approximately 860 F/A-18s have been delivered to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and more than 1,180 worldwide. Other countries that fly the Hornet are Canada, Australia, Spain and Kuwait. Finland and Switzerland are under contract for F/A-18 deliveries from 1995 to 1999.
 -0- 7/19/93
 /CONTACT: Daryl Stephenson of McDonnell Douglas Aerospace, 314-232-8203/

CO: McDonnell Douglas Aerospace ST: California IN: ARO SU:

BP-JB -- LA040 -- 3293 07/19/93 18:01 EDT
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Date:Jul 19, 1993

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