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F-111 carries Raptor Pod
(Article republished with the express permission of Air Force Today Publications.  Subscriptions are available.)

An RF-111C of No 1 Squadron deployed to Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Edinburgh late last month to undergo a trial fitment of an underwing pod containing an electro-optical sensor in readiness for flight tests to be conducted by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) over the next few months.

The F-111 will carry the DB-110 Raptor pod as part of the JP129 Risk Mitigation Phase, involving the Defence Acquisitions Organisation, Aerospace Development, DSTO and ARDU. The trials program will also contribute towards part of ongoing assessments of the Australian Defence Force’s surveillance and reconnaissance requirements.

Raptor on A8-134
RF-111C A8-134 trialing the Raytheon
DB-110 Raptor Pod
(Photos courtesy of ARDU and 92WG Photo)

The DB-110 concept demonstrator is a long-range oblique electro-optical sensor developed by Raytheon System Company Inc, Lexington USA, that images in both the visible and infrared frequencies of the spectrum. This means that the sensor is able to gather imagery during the day or at night. The concept demonstrator version of the sensor records image data onto digital tape. The signal is extracted from the tape, calibrated and screened at a ground station. The production system, through data linking, will be able to forward image signals to the ground station for near real time calibration and analysis.

The concept demonstrator has been adapted for fit to, and control by, the F-111 by Raytheon Systems Company, Australia, and will be cleared for flight by ARDU. FLTLT Graeme Nayler of ARDU will guide image flight schedules.

Fitment of the DB-110 is for trial purposes only and does not necessarily mean that the F-111 fleet will get this sensor for operational use. An investigatory study indicated that the F-111 had the ability, availability and power to carry the DB-110. The initial test flight is scheduled for July 12, after which the pod will be flown during exercises in northern Australia to determine the effectiveness of such a sensor system under Australian operational conditions. DSTO will study the interoperability of such a system and the performance capability in Australia’s northern climatic conditions

Closeup of the Raython DB-110 Raptor Pod
(Photos courtesy of
ARDU and 92WG Photo)
Under operational conditions, however, a production-model sensor would be able to interface with the aircraft navigation systems to automatically point at and image targets from long distances - at ranges where aircrews may not be able to see the target. According to the Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron, Wing Commander Kym Osley, this capability would allow the reconnaissance variant of the F-111 to obtain imagery at stand-off distances, which is "analogous to the stand-off weapons already employed by the F-111."
Flight Lieutenant Nayler said that another advantage of the system is that it is capable of data-linking information in real time back to a ground station. This contrasts with current reconnaissance procedures that may take a lengthy period to exploit intelligence information from photographic film.

Also see the "Fight's On at Green Flag" article republished here.

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