412th Test Wing Public Affairs
10/8/2015 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 419th Flight Test Squadron here recently executed ground laser testing on the B-52H aircraft.
The B-52 bomber is integrating the LITENING targeting pod, or TGP, under the right wing.
Operational B-52 aircrews have requested additional targeting pod
resources to maintain precision weapon delivery and to provide air
support for troops on the ground. The test program at the 419th will
provide results to support fielding recommendations.
The LITENING TGP will provide the field with additional military utility.
The targeting pod provides infrared and TV imagery along with three
different lasers. It's a gimbaled sensor that can look about the ground
while using lasers. The lasers may help generate precise ground
coordinates or point out items for ground troops.
The LITENING system is a self-contained, multi-sensor targeting and
surveillance system, which has been fielded in other aircraft types
across the U.S. military. LITENING enables aircrews to detect, acquire,
auto-track and identify targets at extremely long ranges for weapon
delivery or nontraditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
missions. LITENING's laser imaging sensors, advanced image processing
and digital video output provide superior imagery, allowing aircrews to
identify and engage targets under a wide range of battlefield
While the LITENING TGP can provide a much needed and improved
capability, it cannot be fielded until laser safety is complete. The
lasers cannot be allowed to strike the aircraft for both safety reasons
"We needed to create what is called a MASK curve that stops the lasers
when the targeting pod looks at B-52 aircraft structure. Essentially,
the aircraft may get in the way of the laser, so we have to stop the
laser from firing," said Perry Choate, 419 FLTS Electro Optics lead.
"The importance of this laser mask zone test was to assure the lasers
would not touch any aircraft structure. The most important reason to
keep the lasers from hitting the aircraft was to guarantee a correct
laser range measurement to the intended ground point of interest. If the
laser hit the aircraft, the laser range measurement would be in error."
Two other reasons for keeping the laser from touching the B-52 is the
sensitivity of the internal laser range receiver, which can be affected
by such a close reflection to the targeting pod from the aircraft
itself. There is also a nominal ocular hazard distance from where the
laser hits the aircraft surface that could possibly affect the cockpit
area and aircrew.
In order to integrate the lasers, the 419th test team had to find the
angles where each of the lasers just begin to touch aircraft structure,
which was labor intensive. This entailed measuring each of the lasers as
test personnel moved around the aircraft structure.
"We had to climb on the engines and wing areas to measure where the
lasers were in relation to the aircraft structure. Once we determined
the angles, a safety buffer was added to that initial two-dimensional
curve. I assured extra margin about the B-52 cockpit area since our
aircrew has windows that allow viewing the targeting pod," said Choate.
The result was a list of angles that masked out the B-52 aircraft
structure to prevent laser striking aircraft structure with added safety
What made the test challenging is that all three lasers are invisible to
the eye. A special camera that sees the invisible lasers, along with a
phosphorescent card that glowed when struck by laser energy, was used to
pinpoint the laser spots.
"We were efficient and kept the test safe for all participants," Choate said.
In the end, the team designed and verified the MASK curve.
"The next step is to take our MASK curve to flight and run another
airborne test just to be sure we have the all the angles correct," said
That flight test is planned for early 2016.
"The B-52H operational fleet is anticipating use of the LITENING TGP to
continue their role in air dominance and to support ground troops while
deployed in hostile areas."