There is no JTAC available and the Marine on the radio has given me his coordinates and elevation. I punched in a waypoint ("Fox", the position of the Marines) into the control display unit (CDU) and I am flying towards it.
To engage the target, first I will have to acquire it. I will do that with the AN/AAQ-28 Litening AT Targeting Pod. This technological marvel is equipped with a CCD and a forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera and is invaluable to acquire and mark targets.
|The targeting pod is the third gadget from the left.|
|The targeting pod is active in the right multi-function display (MFD). The targeting pod is pointing towards the position of the Marines, but the cloud cover masks any type of image.|
|Now that I am coming down from the clouds, the targeting pod is showing terrain. Still 33.4 miles to go towards the Marines.|
|Acquiring distant targets with the targeting pod from a low altitude frequently produces some disorienting, low-angles lines of sight. Please see below.|
|I am still 31.5 miles from the Marines squad. At this distance, off course I can't see them with the targeting pod.|
|The Marine told me his squad was located in the edge of a village, but all I can see when I point the targeting pod at their position is an open field. The targeting pod is now using the FLIR camera.|
|What actually happens is that the targeting pod crosshairs are pointing towards the coordinates of the Marines and the village, but the line of sight collides with a rolling hill in front of them. Note the trees emerging from behind the hill.|
|The targeting pod camera is in FLIR mode (hot objects in black). I finally spot the Marines in the village (one Marine can be seen between the crosshairs and the left edge of the multi-function display), from 12.7 miles away!|
To be continued ...