The United States Air Force (USAF) achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) on its latest Infrared Search and Track (IRST) module integrated into the F-15C Eagle on January 21, 2022.
The IRST pod, known as the Legion Pod, is a sensor that uses the infrared spectrum to help pilots track and engage enemy aircraft in environments where traditional radar technology is denied. The pod also provides a means to monitor enemy aircraft at extended ranges that are normally undetected, enhancing the F-15C’s effectiveness and ability to dominate the battlespace.
“In today’s combat environment, not only do we have the capability and technology to jam and counter radar, but so do our enemies,” said Major Daniel Hermanski, F Requirements Branch Chief -15 from the ACC, to Staff Sgt. Cassandra Johnson, Air Combat Command Public Affairs, for article Legion Pod reaches IOC. “This module is the next step in countering jamming technology and enabling our fighters to fight and track the enemy in contested environments.”
According to Lockheed Martin, the Legion Pod can accommodate additional sensors within its structure, making it possible to integrate new capabilities with minimal modifications to the aircraft. The versatility and adaptability of the pod design allows for integration on other combat aircraft such as the F-16 and F-15EX.
“This is a game-changer,” said Todd Mathes, ACC F-15C program elements monitor. “The capabilities provided by this module are critical to how we deliver combat power and keep us on the cutting edge of combat.”
As the primary major command for all fighters, the ACC is responsible for equipping the fighter force whether or not they operationally possess the unit. Achieving IOC on this module is an example of ACC’s ongoing collaboration with Air Force fighter units and test and evaluation squadrons at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
“We work closely with our Air Force and industry partners to identify and eliminate gaps in our capabilities, which our enemies would attempt to exploit,” Mathes said. “It allows us to field and test new technologies to determine the best solution to give us an edge in battlefield decision-making.”
The Legion Pod is expected to reach full operational capability later this year, with the remaining contracted pods being delivered to F-15C tactical squadrons.
In 2017, Legion Pod was selected as the infrared search and tracking system for the US Air Force’s F-15C fleet. Transportable between platforms, future Legion Pod expansion plans include the F-15E, F-16, as well as unmanned systems. Flexible by design and production-ready, Legion Pod is intended to serve as the next sensor system of choice for fixed-wing aircraft.
The pod is mounted on the centerline of the F-15 – mirroring what the Super Hornet Block III does – and the IRST21 long wave infrared sensor used is the same as the Navy version.
Photo Credit: USAF Photo by 1st Lt Lindsey Heflin