F/A-18 F4 over China Lake
Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Department 1 Dec. 1999

Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) First Flight

"The ATFLIR images I saw today were crisp, clear and very stable." Those were the words of the Advanced Weapons Laboratory ATFLIR Project Officer and F/A-18 Weapon Systems Operator (WSO) Major Jeff Webb after flying the first flight with the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared, ATFLIR. Weapons Test Squadron Pilot LCDR Greg Huffman piloted the mission in an F/A-18D, at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) Land Ranges at China Lake, California.

The flight familiarized the aircrew with the ATFLIR operation, successfully aligned the system on the ground and then collected data while airborne. The crew was also able to observe the FLIR imagery in the cockpit in all fields of view.


The ATFLIR, which is currently in test, will be replacing three pods on the F/A-18 (the TFLIR, the navigation FLIR and the laser designator tracker). It will be used on all models of the F/A-18, including the latest edition of the Hornet family, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. ATFLIR has been developed in response to an urgent warfighting requirement for the pilot and WSO to be able to acquire a target with improved target recognition and at a greater standoff range. An additional requirement to provide autonomous precision targeting coordinates to "smart" weapons, such as JSOW and JDAM, will be met with ATFLIR.

"ATFLIR provides a tremendous increase in resolution and a greater magnification... ATFLIR's magnification is 30X versus previous FLIR capabilities at 4X. We have made a huge leap today," said Webb.

ATFLIR accomplished its first flight in just over a year and a half after the contract was awarded. The first flight was a culmination of a government/contractor team effort with the Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, MD, the Advanced Weapons Laboratory at NAWCWD, China Lake, CA, the Navy Depot at Jacksonville, FLA, Boeing, at St. Louis, MO, and Raytheon, in El Segundo, CA.

The feelings of success were echoed by CDR J.R. Brown, F/A-18 Program Product Lead for ElectroOptic Infrared Systems in Patuxent River, MD, "This very successful first flight occurred ahead of schedule because of the pride in ownership and teamwork of the ATFLIR Integrated Program Team. Success has been our only option since day one. Ultimately, the fleet is the real winner. They're our top priority."

Photo: Mike Johnson

"With the standoff range, the clarity of the image, and the ability of ATFLIR to generate highly accurate will enable the aircrew to autonomously handoff the coordinates to the "J" series weapons, Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), and laser illuminate (pinpoint the target) for the laser guided GBU 24." Said Webb.

"I feel privileged to be a part of the ATFLIR team, a team that has shown what synergy can accomplish making this first flight a reality," continued Webb, "When I joined the ATFLIR Team in January, they said we would do the first flight in November, 1999.... The date was set. And that is just what we did. This is a tribute to the hard work of the ATFLIR team keeping this project on schedule."

Updated Fri Dec 3 10:16:46 PST 1999