NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Lockheed Martin Corp. will develop its latest Infrared Search and Track target pod for the F-15C Eagle fleet in an effort to get the most up-to-date targeting tech for the fourth-generation fighter, the company announced this week.
"Lockheed Martin will produce more than 130 systems, which will be delivered for aircraft integration," the company said in a release.
The announcement came during the Air Force Association's Air, Space & Cyber Conference.
Dubbed the "Legion Pod," the latest system provides long-range detection and tracking of airborne threats in radar-denied environments.
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But Boeing will award Lockheed "an engineering, manufacturing, development and production contract for Legion Pod in 2018," the release said.
Lockheed, the world's largest defense company, said it has completed more than 25 flight tests with the Legion Pod on the F-15C and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Scott Bishop, a Lockheed exhibitor, said the pod will greatly extend the Eagle's tracking range.
He pointed out that the front of the pod contains the Infrared Search and Tracking component, but the rest of the pod remains free space for other technologies, "radios or what have you."
The whole system operates as "a long-wave infrared track," he said. Compared to Lockheed's Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, a mid-wave targeting pod mounted on jets such as the F-16 that detects, tracks and pinpoints either air-to-air or air-to-ground targets, the Legion Pod is more about extended range.
"It's just a matter of how far out you can see," Bishop said. "That and the fidelity of what you're actually seeing. With a long-wave tracker, you're going to know something's there a lot farther [out]" by sensing it earlier.
The news comes as the Air Force weighs putting the F-15C and D fleet on the chopping block. However, even if the service decides to retire the fleet in the mid-2020s, leaders have said any scheduled updates that strengthen the platform will continue.
Lockheed plans to deliver its first Legion Pod in 2018, with additional deliveries planned for 2019, the release said.