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C4iSR: Air

Boeing to integrate Legion Pod onto F-15C Eagle

06 September 2018
A Legion Pod fitted to the centreline of an F-15C Eagle. Boeing has been contracted to roll out this combination for the US Air Force. Source: Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control

Boeing has been awarded USD208.3 million to equip the F-15C Eagle fighter with the modular infrared search-and-track (IRST) Legion Pod.

The contract, announced by the Department of Defense (DoD) on 5 September, provides for engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD), production, integration, testing, and deployment of the Lockheed Martin Legion Pod onto the F-15C, and will run through to 30 November 2020.

In March Jane’s was the first to report that Boeing had selected the Legion Pod to replace the current interim IRST sensor that is packaged in the Talon HATE communications pod carried on the aircraft’s centreline. Steve Parker, vice-president F-15 Programs at Global Strike, Boeing Military Aircraft, said at the time that the US Air Force (USAF) had decided to leave the sensor selection to the F-15 original equipment manufacturer.

The Legion Pod houses the IRST21 long-wave infrared sensor (officially designated AN/ASG-34), which is already fitted to the US Navy’s Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet as part of an interim drop tank/IRST sensor combination. As with other IRST systems, the pod enables the host aircraft to acquire and track airborne targets through the heat generated by the jet engine and through aerodynamic heating of the airframe as it travels through the atmosphere.

This ability of IRST to detect and track aircraft via their thermal signature has led a number of industry insiders to label the system as a ‘stealth beater’. While low observable (LO) aircraft are able to avoid radar detection through a combination of airframe design and special airframe coatings, they are not able to mask their heat signatures. Indeed, the nature of the specialist coatings and surfaces being applied to stealth aircraft is such that they actually increase the thermal signature, actually making it easier for IRST systems to acquire LO aircraft than would be the case for older-generation target aircraft.

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