This is a quite period in terms of DCS (relatively to the F-14B) but I’m extremely busy IRL. The new AIM-120C is definitely a good news, hopefully the new WCS is getting closer!
That being said, I was going through the drafts and I found this article, ready to go dated back to September 2019. I thought I posted it already!
The F-14B lacks the system integration typical of newer aircraft such as the A-10C or F/A-18C, especially in the Air-To-Ground role. Nevertheless, the Tomcat shines as a “bomb lorry” due to its impressive payload, speed and endurance but its capability of dropping free fall bombs is limited by the necessity of visually identifying the target.
The F-14, in fact, lacks a CCRP function bound to a waypoint, probably due to the intrinsic imprecision of the INS and the lack of GPS.
This situation changed with the development of Laser Guided bombs. Such ordnance can be aimed onto the target post delivery by the F-14 or another asset, such as a JTAC on the ground or another aircraft (FAC/A).
The LANTIRN pod
LANTIRN is an acronym that stands for Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night.
The employment of the LANTIRN is surprisingly simple and a quick look at the available controls and the manual suggest most of the features available, so there’s little need to go into its details.
In-cockpit it appers as an additional joystick placed on the left of the RIO.
The LANTIRN allows the F-14 to self-guide its GBUs onto the target.
The easiest way to use the LANTIRN is by means of slewing the pod on reference WP created near the target area (or the keyhole itself), then adjusting it onto the target (usually by talk-on by the JTAC or FAC/A). Since the latlong precision of the F-14 is less than the LANTIRN’s, a finer adjustment is almost always required.
Once the target has been acquired and confirmed, the Pilot has to follow the pod’s delivery guidance. The RIO can switch from CPTR PLT or CPTR TGT to MANUAL, so the Pilot doesn’t have unnecessary and potentially confusing guidance cues on his HUD.
Buddy-lasing and LANTIRN
There are a number of reasons to rely on an external source of guidance for the GBUs whilst carrying the LANTIRN pod. For instance:
- Release altitude: the LANTIRN cannot be operated over a certain altitude (not modelled in DCS) and threats in the AO may force the F-14 to fly above that altitude;
- Quality of the image: the low definition makes identifying a target a challenge sometimes. If collateral damage and/or positive ID is a requirement, then guidance from the ground or asset with better sensors can solve the problem;
- Weather: a thick cloud cover may prevent the self-lasing. A JTAC from the ground can mark the target for the F-14;
Delivering a laser-guided bomb with the LANTIRN is very similar to the self-lasing scenario. It is although even easier because illuminating the target is not even necessary and the LANTIRN is only used for the steering guidance it provides.
Since the LANTIRN can’t detect and lock onto another asset’s laser, the easiest way to use the LANTIRN is by creating a WP over the target coordinates. This, however, introduces a series of possible unwanted events and increases the chances of mistakes: wrong latlong coordinates can be passed or typed into the CAP, the presence of the mark cannot be confirmed and this is an intrinsically unsafe situation.
An alternative is delivering by means of CPTR PLT, TGT or IP, via talk-on.
LANTIRN set up
The LANTIRN has never been completely integrated with the F-14 avionics. The video feed is displayed on the TID (replacing the TCS) and most of the controls are mounted on a left-handed stick, placed on the left of the pilot.
Prior to its employment, it must be warmed-up by means of the Power Switch knob placed in the top-left corner of the LANTIRN Control Panel. The procedure takes a few minutes so make sure to take this into account. When the LANTIRN has completed this phase, the Mode switch signals “STBY“. By pressing it, after a few seconds, the LANTIRN switches to “OPER“. Only at this stage the pod is finally ready for employment.
To toggle between TCS/FLIR and the LANTIRN feed on the TID id done by pressing the Video button on the bottom-right of the panel. Finally, in order to guide your ordnance, the Laser must be armed. The procedure is really simple, just make sure you are taking into account the time required to complete the warm-up.
The LANTIRN can save only point into its memory.
Besides the “standard” abilities (zoom, Black/White hot, slewing to a WP, declutter and so on), the LANTIRN has three interesting features: in primis it can save only one point into its memory. This means you can save
As we have seen when discussing the employment of the Iron Bombs, certain preparations are required on the Armament Panel, beside having the LANTIRN ready to go. Since most of the settings are in common with non-guided ordnance I won’t go too much into the details here but, just to recap:
- select the ordnance on the WPN TYPE drum;
- set the appropriate fuzing (both mechanical and electrical must be set);
- select the stations.
Check the laser code!
In order to guide a bomb, the laser code of the ordnance and the marker must match. The code used by the F-14’s LANTIRN and the code used by most of the spotters can be changed any time but the F-14 must be “weight-on-wheels” in order to change the code of the bombs. Make sure to check it and change it to have it matching the briefing before departing.
This is an introduction to the LANTIRN employment a stream a while ago. Hopefully you can find it interesting!