Engineers are working to enhance the B-52’s ability to exploit the full capabilities of the LITENING targeting pod’s laser modes for targeting, ranging, and troop support. The B-52 is capable of using both LITENING and Sniper targeting pods, but technicians at Edwards are mapping the pod’s laser sweep to identify where it overlaps the B-52s structure. The data will then be used to program the pod to avoid lasing the airframe, according to an Oct. 7 release. “The most important reason to keep the lasers from hitting the aircraft was to guarantee a correct laser range measurement to the intended ground point of interest,” said Perry Choate, 419th Flight Test Squadron electro optical team leader at Edwards. “If the laser hit the aircraft, the laser range measurement would be in error,” he added. From its position on the right wing pylon, the pod must avoid the fuselage, and especially the cockpit area, in addition to the bomber’s wing and pylon-mounted engines. “We needed to create what is called a mask curve that stops the lasers when the targeting pod looks at B-52 aircraft structure” to enhance its operational accuracy and safety. Testers at Edwards plan to begin flight trials on the B-52 early next year.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.