The JSF's EOTS will be obsolete at IOC.

The EOTS is already out-of-date.

One of the F-35's "killer apps" is its Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS).  It is a great idea in theory:  Instead of hanging a bulky targeting pod off of the aircraft, the JSF basically has one built in to the airframe.  This way, the F-35 keeps its stealthy profile and frees up weapon stations.

It really would be a rather elegant piece of engineering...  If targeting pods never evolved.

The JSF's EOTS is based on Lockheed Martin's own Sniper Advanced Targeting pod.  It is a great piece of kit and it is currently in use on Canada's own CF-18s in the form of the Sniper XR.  This is the very same version from which the EOTS is based on.

Sniper XR mounted on a CF-18
There is just one small problem.  The Sniper XR first entered service in 2006 and has already been outclassed.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin's own Sniper ATP-SE entered service with the USAF.  This newer version not only has better sensor capabilities, but much improved data-link capability.

Targeting pods are a fairly new addition to fighters, but they have proven to be an invaluable asset in modern-day warfare.  These pods allow for more accurate precision strikes with reduced collateral damage.  They will likely continue to improve over the next few years, as well, thanks to healthy competition between Lockheed Martin Sniper and Northrop Grumman's LITENING (not to mention the Thales DAMOCLES).

When the F-35 finally enters widespread service in the 2020s, there is a good chance its EOTS will be several generations old compared to the newest targeting pods.  Unfortunately, its built-in design makes it a bit harder (and expensive) to upgrade.  Not exactly an attractive option for something that is already years late and billions over budget.

More on this story can be found here.


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