F-16 pilots are now flying after dark in planes equipped to turn night into day, the commander of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron said.
Two F-16 squadrons based here are now exclusively using planes equipped with the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system for night flying, said Lt. Col. Thomas Rackley, whose squadron is from Hill Air Force Base in Utah.The system has three features: an infrared sensor that creates a picture of the target on the ground, one that creates a picture of the terrain ahead and radar that enables the pilot to follow the terrain.
The F-16s, not originally designed for night operations, can now blast the enemy 24 hours a day, preventing the Iraqis from using darkness for cover.
The F-16s join some of the all-weather, day-night F-15E Strike Eagle fighter-bombers that also have been using the technology since the start of the air war Jan. 17.
The U.S. military has released some videotapes showing the clarity the LANTIRN pods produce in following smart bombs and missiles to their targets.
"It's a quantum leap," said Rackley, who said his unit was the first F-16 squadron to use the new system in combat. "It's like daylight flying, except they can't see you."