The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron conducted the first-ever live fire of an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile from an F-15C Eagle using an Infrared Search-and-Track system, successfully shooting a QF-16 aerial target, Aug. 5, 2021. The F-15C was equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Legion Pod IRST Block 1.5 system. The IRST passive target tracking capability was combined with the APG-63v3 RADAR to datalink the target location to the AIM-120, explained Maj. Brian Davis, 85th TES Chief of Air-to-Air Weapons and Tactics. During the test, the sensors in multiple spectrums collaborated for the missile to successfully intercept the target and closed kill chains.
The test also coincided with the fielding evaluation of the Legion Pod Block 1.5 IRST, where members of both the 85th TES and Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force collaborated to test the datalink characterization to further develop follow-on tactics. This successful live missile test is significant because an F-15 equipped with an IRST-cued AIM-120 allows us to achieve detection, tracking, targeting, weapons employment, and verification of an intercept without being dependent upon RADAR energ. It’s also not susceptible to radio frequency jamming or a target’s low observable design.”
This test proves the capabilities of the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force to lethally target an aircraft outside of the traditional radar electromagnetic spectrum. Pairing that with the ability to also adopt the Legion Pod on any platform sets a precedent for what’s to come. Nearly a year ago today, the U.S. Air Force hit two other IRST milestones: the first missile shot of an AIM-9X using the Legion Pod on an F-15C and the first flight of a Legion Pod-equipped F-16.
The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron is part of the 53d Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. It conducts testing and evaluation for the F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, and F-16 Fighting Falcon airframes. By testing new, operational capabilities, developing tactics, and evaluating fielded capabilities, the 53rd Wing is bringing the future faster while answering the warfighter’s demands for integrated, multi-domain capabilities. The 53d Wing (53 WG) is a wing of the United States Air Force based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The wing reports to the United States Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, which in turn reports to Headquarters Air Combat Command.