New Optical Gear the Way of the Future

  • Published
  • By Brian Lepley
  • Northern Edge 06, Public Affairs
A high power, gyro-stabilized set of binoculars with a laser spot tracker inside may be the newest way to help aircraft and ground forces find the same target. 

The Stabilized Portable Optical Target Tracking Receiver or SPOTTR is used by airmen on the ground to assist fighter and bomber pilots find the right target when dropping bombs. 

SPOTTR was used during Northern Edge ‘06, Alaska’s largest military training exercise, by TSgt Nathan Hoffman to help F-16 pilots from the Ohio National Guard’s 112th Fighter Squadron find the correct targets to drop 500-pound laser guided bombs. 

“SPOTTR enables you to see where the aircraft laser hits the ground,” said Hoffman. “I can give quick target ‘talk-ons’ to pilots, like ‘move your laser spot 100 meters east.’” 

A Joint Terminal Attack Controller or JTAC with the 354th Operations Group at Eielson, TSgt Hoffman said, “using SPOTTR reduces target location time with the pilot to under a minute because I can immediately verify where his laser is pointing…in the past, JTACs took time to carefully talk a pilots eyes onto the target area but still had no direct confirmation where the pilot was looking except through verbal feedback.” 

For the Northern Edge mission, the 112th pilots were dropping bombs over Yukon Airfield just west of Eielson AFB. While Hoffman has used SPOTTR to see targets eight kilometers away in testing, for this exercise the target range was four kilometers away. 

“It increases situational awareness and enhances standard procedures for close air support,” Hoffman said. “The intent is to expedite accurate delivery of weapons to protect friendly troops.” 

Hoffman has been testing the SPOTTR with Eielson F-16 and A-10 aircraft since early December. “What I’m mainly doing with it is exposing it to field conditions,” he said.