January 17, 2013
The U.S. Air Force has approved full-rate production for Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT ) Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) under the ATP Sensor Enhancement program (ATP-SE).
According to Lockheed, the Sniper pods are essentially a target acquisition system, installed on warplanes to help pilots "identify targets faster and farther away, boosting their situational awareness and ensuring their safety in high threat environments." The systems include laser designators and target trackers for guiding laser-guided bombs to their targets. They also include video data links that can transmit high-resolution streaming video to U.S. forces on the ground, improving coordination among air and ground forces.
Lockheed said that while other companies also work on Sniper, Lockheed won the bulk of the work in a 2010 USAF competition. The program is expected to run at least through 2017, by which time, if all contract options are exercised, Lockheed should net more than $1 billion from the program. The company advises that Sniper is already installed on all USAF F-15, F-16, A-10, B-1 and B-52 aircraft, as well as on planes in use in 15 foreign air forces.
Initial deployment of the newest version of the system, Sniper ATP-SE, will begin later this year.