The top highlighted item – AIM-9 ‘Sidewinder’
The AIM-9 ‘Sidewinder’ is a heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missile. This particular one has a blue stripe around it which indicates it’s a training round. A training round will have an active head but will not have a rocket motor or any explosive material. This allows pilots to simulate the use of the missile without having to actually carry live weapons onboard.
The bottom highlighted item – Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (AIS / RAIDS) pod
The pod is one part of the Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) system. It is used to collect information such as attitude, speed, climb rate, turn rate, roll rate, yaw rate and weapons release from each aircraft that has the pod fitted. The pod can be operated in two methods either ‘rangeless’ where the pod is referred to as a RAIDS (Rangeless Airborne Instrumentation Debriefing System) pod and the data is stored for review later or on a range where the pod is referred to as an AIS (Airborne Instrumentation System) pod where the the information is transmitted along with the aircraft’s location to the Control and Computation Subsystem (CCS) which allows ground commanders to see the simulated battle unfold and the successful / unsuccessful kills or as part of debrief.
Both the highlighted pods whilst different in operation are part of the same system. The Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system is standard fit on all F-15E Strike Eagles but is due to be replaced by the Sniper XR Advanced Targeting Pod (there won’t be a replacement for the navigation pod).
The top highlighted item – AN/AAQ-13 Navigation Pod
The navigation pod provides both Terrain Following Radar (TFR) and Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FlIR) allowing the F-15E to operate at altitudes down to 100 feet in all weathers, night or day. It has five selectable modes: Normal, Weather, ECCM, Low Probability of Intercept (LPI), and Very Low Clearance (VLC). The images from the pod are displayed on either the multi-function display in the cockpit or directly to the Heads Up Display (HUD). In a day time low level sortie the navigation pod wouldn’t be used.
The bottom highlighted item – AN/AAQ-14 Targeting Pod
The targeting pod also uses Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FlIR) to provide a high resolution image stabilised picture of the target. Once the target has been found and indentified a laser designator and range finder is used to track the target.
The highlighted item – AN/AAQ-188 Electronic Attack Training Pod
The electronic attack training pod unlike the other items listed above is not a standard fit item on the F-15E. It’s used as a threat simulator in training sorties.
AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod
The Sniper pod won the USAF’s Advanced Targeting Pod competition and is replacing the AN/AAQ-14 Targeting Pod. Providing three times the range, twice the resolution and the lowest lifecycle cost in its class due to its impressive reliability. The Sniper pod was first made available in 2005 but it is still a rare sight on the Lakenheath F-15Es.
The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) is a beyond visual range (BVR) air to air missile and is part of a standard fit for the F-15E Strike Eagle.
AN/ASQ-236 Radar Pod
The AN/ASQ-236 Radar Pod is latest bit of technology to be deployed on the F-15E Strike Eagle. It pod is based on a synthetic aperture radar that allows the production of detailed maps for surveillance, coordinate generation for navigation and bomb damage assessment in day, night or adverse weather conditions. Whilst it’s not a common sight on Lakenheath F-15Es I’ve seen a couple in use before.
The pod does look similar to the Data Link Pods the F-15E uses but the air scoop at the back is an easy way to tell them apart.