Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN, is a system for use on the Air Force's premier fighter aircraft — the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16C/D Fighting Falcon. LANTIRN significantly increases the combat effectiveness of these aircraft, allowing them to fly at low altitudes, at night and under-the-weather to attack ground targets with a variety of precision-guided and unguided weapons.

LANTIRN consists of a navigation pod and a targeting pod integrated and mounted externally beneath the aircraft.

The navigation pod provides high-speed penetration and precision attack on tactical targets at night and in adverse weather. The navigation pod also contains a terrain-following radar and a fixed infrared sensor, which provides a visual cue and input to the aircraft's flight control system, enabling it to maintain a pre-selected altitude above the terrain and avoid obstacles. This sensor displays an infrared image of the terrain in front of the aircraft, to the pilot, on a head-up display. The navigation pod enables the pilot to fly along the general contour of the terrain at high speed, using mountains, valleys and the cover of darkness to avoid detection. The pod houses the first wide-field, forward-looking infrared navigation system for Air Force air-superiority fighters.

The targeting pod contains a high-resolution, forward-looking infrared sensor (which displays an infrared image of the target to the pilot), a laser designator-rangefinder for precise delivery of laser-guided munitions, a missile boresight correlator for automatic lock-on of AGM-65D imaging infrared Maverick missiles, and software for automatic target tracking. These features simplify the functions of target detection, recognition and attack and permit pilots of single-seat fighters to attack targets with precision-guided weapons on a single pass.

The research and development program began in September 1980 with Martin Marietta Corp. (now Lockheed Martin, Inc.), Orlando, Fla., as contractor. Initial operational test and evaluation of the LANTIRN navigation pod was successfully completed in December 1984. The Air Force approved low-rate initial production of the navigation pod in March 1985 and full-rate production in November 1986. The first production pod was delivered to the Air Force March 31, 1987.

In April 1986, initial operational test and evaluation of the LANTIRN targeting pod proved that a low-altitude, night, under-the-weather, precision attack mission was feasible. The Air Force approved low-rate initial production in June 1986. Introduction of the LANTIRN revolutionized night warfare by denying enemy forces the sanctuary of darkness.

General Characteristics
Primary function:
Low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night flying
Contractor: Lockheed Martin, Inc.
Length: Navigation pod, 78.2 inches (1.99 meters); targeting pod, 98.5 inches (2.51 meters)
Diameter: Navigation pod, 12 inches (.31 meters); targeting pod, 15 inches (.38 meters)
Weight: Navigation pod, 451.1 pounds (204.6 kilograms); targeting pod, 530 pounds (240.7 kilograms)
Aircraft: F-15E, F-16C/D
Sensors: Infrared and terrain following radar sensors are on the navigation pod. Infrared and laser designator and ranging sensors are on the targeting pod
Introduction Date: March 1987
Unit Cost: Navigation pod, $1.38 million; targeting pod, $3.2 million