The Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S aircraft have used the tactical recon pod for missions over Yemen and Syria.
The photos in this post show a RSAF F-15S, belonging to the 92nd Sqn/3rd Flying Wing, taking off from King Abdulaziz AFB, reportedly for a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led anti-ISIL campaign in Syria and Iraq. As you can see, the aircraft carry a Goodrich DB-110 reconnaissance pod.
As part of a contract awarded in 2012 to Goodrich (now UTC Aerospace Systems) from the U.S. Air Force for the RSAF F-15S modernisation program, the Saudi were supplied ten dual-band recce pods for real-time, long-range, high-resolution, video imagery reconnaissance as well as five fixed, transportable and mobile ground exploitation stations. Along with the hardware, the RSAF also got training and logistics support services for the start up and integration of the new equipment with the Saudi Eagle fleet.
According to the vendor, the DB-110 is a dual-band 110-inch focal length reconnaissance system that is capable of producing high-resolution imagery from nadir to a stand-off range of 80-plus nautical miles, day or night. Developed as a derivative of the strategic Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System (SYERS) sensor on the USAF U-2, the DB-110 can collect more than 10,000 square miles of high-resolution imagery per hour and serves as the cornerstone of many air forces’ tactical and strategic ISR capabilities. It is currently in service with 14 nations on multiple platforms, including the F-16, F-15, P-3, MQ-9, Tornado (RAPTOR) and modified Global Express aircraft. Earlier this year, UTC Aerospace Systems, was awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with an initial ceiling of $22.9 million from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) for the DB-110 Airborne Reconnaissance Systems destined to multiple countries via the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
The real-time segment of the pod is provided by a datalink capability that allows the aircraft, when it comes into line-of-sight range of the receiving
equipment, to transmit the acquired imagery. Obviously, when the aircraft is out of range, or if immediate download is not required, the collected imagery is stored internally using a highspeed solid-state recorder.
One may wonder why, in the age of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), tactical jets still conduct reconnaissance mission. The answer is that the DB-110/F-15 duo may conduct peace time cross-border surveillance from international airspace, or during times of conflict, quickly transit through contested airspace to conduct time-sensitive tactical-reconnaissance missions that would require more time with a drone. Moreover, the integration of the pod on some platforms enable the DB-110 to cooperate with the aircraft’s other sensors, such as Synthetic Aperture Radar and signals intelligence, thereby producing multilayer intelligence products and a more holistic view of the battlespace.
Although some photographs of the F-15S carrying the pod had already emerged, you won’t find many images of the Saudi Eagles with the DB-110 but according to our sources, there are plenty of unpublished shots with the pod awaiting to be cleared.
Noteworthy, an image that had appeared in June 2018 depicts the very same aircraft (#9203) carrying the pod allegedly during a mission over Yemen.
Image credit: @RayanRashed0. H/T to Mohamed Khaled (@MbKS15) for providing additional details about the shot.