5 Reasons IRST21 Is Revolutionizing The Battlespace

5 Reasons IRST21 Is Revolutionizing The Battlespace
July 08, 2021

As our military service women and men assess the growing threat in the Pacific, they require a capability that can keep them safe in any battle environment.

Infrared Search and Track (IRST) is an infrared sensor that gives pilots a fully passive air-to-air engagement, meaning it does not alert other aircraft of its presence while enabling offensive air engagements in an environment where radar isn’t an option. This capability is key to leveraging fourth-generation fighters in a fifth-generation battlespace.

Lockheed Martin’s IRST21® sensor provides passive lethality, meaning it allows pilots to see opposition aircraft and target them without being seen. This is made possible by the sensor seeing the heat signature – or “skin” – of an aircraft, which ultimately increases pilot survivability.

IRST21 supports targeting solutions, such as the guidance of AIM-120C/D and AIM-9X missiles beyond-visual-range. This fully integrated solution complements other systems and sensors, making the entire weapon platform more lethal and capable while enhancing survivability for the warfighter.

From proven performance to state-of-the-art technology, take a look at these top five reasons why IRST21 is a critical capability for pilots.

1. Performance at Northern Edge 2021

Legion Pod® with IRST21 flew on an F-15C at Northern Edge 2021 and anticipates a positive fielding recommendation based on performance. Legion Pod is expected to be operational on F-15Cs in fall 2021.

2. Networking Capability

At Northern Edge 2021, the Legion Pod configuration of IRST21 flew equipped with a new datalink capability, allowing greater accuracy in establishing range to targets while serving as a future communication pathway for pod-to-pod or pod-to-aircraft networking. This could serve as valuable asset for Joint All-Domain Operations.

3. Synergy Across Programs of Record

With both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy participating in this program, both services gain the benefits of reduced costs, risk mitigation and faster delivery to the warfighter.

4. Block II Capability Doubles Performance

With the first installment of IRST21 Block I technology proven on a Navy operational deployment, Block II brings the next level of additional performance enhancements that doubles pilot range in finding other aircraft. 

5. Enemy Aircraft Can’t Hide

IRST21’s sophisticated technology exploits heat signatures of aircraft, thus any aircraft flying in a clear environment will be seen. Immune to detection and radar-jamming, IRST21 limits the effectiveness of threat tactics.

Want to learn more? Listen to The Mitchell Institute’s latest Aerospace Advantage podcast episode that features an overview of how this sensor system is meeting the needs of our warfighters.