On Friday, the Turkish defence electronics giant Aselsan signed a $25 million U.S. contract to integrate its ASELPOD advanced targeting pod onto an “airborne platform” of a “foreign customer.”
The ASELPOD is marketed by Aselsan as “a high performance electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system designed specifically for fighter aircrafts.” A targeting pod is typically used to guide laser-guided bombs (LGB) to a fixed or moving targets.
However, an advanced targeting pod is more than simply a laser designator or rangefinder; with forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, image processing, video recording, etc, pods such as the ASELPOD can also double as day/night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) tools.
According to some Turkish media outlets, the undisclosed customer is likely Jordan or Pakistan, mainly on the count of them operating F-16s and the ASELPOD being compatible with that platform.
Comment and Analysis
It would be curious to see either Jordan or Pakistan acquire the ASELPOD for their respective F-16s, both countries’ F-16s already benefit from the Lockheed Martin Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP). In fact, Pakistan in particular would be averse to the idea of integrating non-U.S. hardware onto its F-16s, such a course would have it deal with getting original equipment vendor clearances and support. If not a hurdle from a regulatory standpoint, it would be a headache in terms of cost.
In Pakistan’s case, the ASELPOD would likely find its way onto the JF-17 Thunder. In April, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s second-in-command Air Marshal Muhammad Ashfaque Arain revealed that the PAF was seeking a new targeting pod for use on the JF-17. At the time, Air Marshal Arain made note of the Thales Damocles, but mentioned that the PAF would go for alternative options should it not be able to procure the Damocles. It could be that the PAF is now in the process of acquiring the Aselsan ASELPOD.
An earlier article on Quwa noted that the Aselsan ASELPOD could be procured for use from the JF-17. It is important to note that the $25 million U.S. contract disclosed by Aselsan only makes note of integration to an airborne platform, there is no mention of pods actually being sold. It is possible that this contract is only the first phase of a larger order (which could involve targeting pods later).
There is considerable potential for the Turkish defence industry in this area. In tandem with Aselsan and the ASELPOD, one could see Roketsan making moves to market the Teber LGB kit as well as UMTAS laser-guided air-to-ground missile and CİRİT laser-guided rockets. Although the PAF is not short of munitions options, a packaged Turkish pod and guided munitions deal could be interesting for future or prospective JF-17 buyers, such as Nigeria and Azerbaijan, respectively.