Intelligence: Sharing Real Time Video


September 30, 2007: The U.S. Air Force has successfully tested another two way digital data system for combat aircraft. The QNT Datalink enables aircraft with targeting pods to share their FLIR (video quality night vision infrared radar) and TV images of what's on the ground, with troops on the ground, in real time. The targeting pod cameras enable pilots flying at 20,000 feet to clearly make out what is going on down there. The pods also contain laser designators for laser guided bombs, and laser range finders that enable pilots to get coordinates for JDAM (GPS guided) bombs. Safely outside the range of most anti-aircraft fire (five kilometers up, and up to fifty kilometers away), pilots can literally see the progress of ground fighting, and have been acting as aerial observers for ground forces. These new capabilities also enable pilots to more easily find targets themselves, and hit them with highly accurate laser guided or JDAM bombs.

The army already have equipment that will get real-time video from aircraft (Rover III), and the QNT Datalink is a competing product (with some additional features). The air force and navy plan to equip more warplanes to share video with the ground troops, and vice versa. This makes life easier for pilots and ground troops, because the same thing can look different when seen from the air, or the ground. This real-time, two way exchange of data also reduces the risks of friendly fire losses.

Some European nations are also planning to use targeting pods for peacekeeping missions, where a few warplanes could provide emergency assistance for widely dispersed peacekeeping troops. The warplanes with the pod could see clearly what is happening on the ground, and, if needed, drop a smart bomb precisely. With two way datacom, the aircraft could also give the ground commander a better idea of what's going on over a wide area.


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