US Air Force Completes First Infra-Red Search and Track Test with Multi-MDS Legion Pods
An F-16 and F-15 assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, prepare to test a datalink between two infrared search and track (IRST) pods, April 7, 2022.

US State Department Approves Sale of F-16 Infrared Search and Track (IRST) Systems to Taiwan

The U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States of F-16 Infrared Search and Track (IRST) systems and related equipment for an estimated cost of $500 million. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) has requested to buy Infrared Search and Track (IRST) systems; integration and test support and equipment; aircraft and munitions support and support equipment; software delivery and support; spare parts, consumables and accessories, and repair and return support; publications and technical documentation and other related elements of logistical and program support. The proposed sale will improve the recipient’s capability to meet current and future threats by contributing to Taiwan’s abilities to defend its airspace, provide regional security, and increase interoperability with the United States through its F-16 program. The principal contractors will be Lockheed Martin Corporation, St. Louis, MO.

For more than 35 years, Lockheed Martin has experience in the development and delivery of IRST systems and related advanced electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) algorithm technologies. The Infrared Search and Track (IRST) pod, known as the Legion Pod, is a sensor that uses the infrared spectrum to help pilots to track and engage enemy aircraft in environments, where traditional radar technology is denied. The pod also provides a way of monitoring enemy aircraft from extended ranges that normally go undetected, boosting the effectiveness of the F-15C and its ability to dominate the battlespace. the Legion Pod can accommodate additional sensors within its structure, making the task of integrating new capabilities possible with minimal aircraft modifications. The versatility and adaptability of the pod design provides for integration on other fighter aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-15EX. Lockheed Martin has updated the sensor suite of the F-16 to even further increase its capabilities.

Lockheed Martin Legion Pod Multi-function Sensor System
Lockheed Martin Legion Pod Multi-function Sensor System. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

The new variation of the IRST21® (Infrared Search and Track) sensor suite, named Legion-ES™ (Embedded System), is designed for the F-16 Block 70/72 fleet to optimize aircraft performance. Legion-ES is a fully integrated, embedded IRST system providing critical technology to detect and track airborne threats with weapon-quality accuracy, increasing pilot reaction time and enhancing warfighter survivability. The configuration is complementary to other on-board and off-board aircraft sensors, enabling multispectral engagement capability. For example, if a pilot spots something of uncertainty on his or her radar, Legion-ES can be used as the long-wave infrared sensor to determine what the threat may be. Housed in a lean system under 300 pounds measuring 77 inches in length and 9.75 inches in diameter, Legion-ES leverages flight-proven technology that is currently in production. Legion-ES has improved detection and resolution over legacy IRST systems, which have more than 300,000 flight hours combined.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), also known as Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), Taipei Representative Office (TRO) or Taipei Mission, is an alternative diplomatic institution serving as a de facto embassy or a consulate of the Republic of China (ROC, commonly referred to as Taiwan) to exercise the foreign affairs and consular services in specific countries which have established formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC, commonly referred to as China). The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) has completed the first tranche of its F-16V Block 70/72 modernisation effort. The U.S. State Department approves sale of 66 F-16C/D Block 70 fighters to Taiwan, represented by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) for an estimated cost of $8 billion.

Republic of China Air Force F-16 Fighter Jet
Republic of China Air Force F-16 Fighter Jet. (Photo by ROCAF)

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