|Springfield State Journal-Register
May 11, 2002
Guard official: 183rd trained with equipment
Would know how to use targeting pod, says operations chief
By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON — The Springfield-based Air National Guard F-16 unit involved in the deadly bombing of Canadian troops
in Afghanistan would have been thoroughly trained on new precision targeting pods before being deployed, the Air Guard’s
chief of combat operations said Friday.
"It would be ridiculous to send someone somewhere and expect them to use equipment they had never seen before," Lt. Col.
Rod Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he could not address the specific "friendly fire" incident involving the 183rd Fighter Wing or its specific training,
but he disputed a Canadian newspaper’s implication that lack of training with the Litening II targeting pods might have been a
"They definitely had the Litening pods in time to train with them .. . or they wouldn’t have gone with them," said Rodriguez, a
veteran F-16 pilot.
The Ottawa Citizen newspaper story said the 183rd pilots were "flying their first missions using the Litening II targeting pods
when a laser-guided bomb killed four Canadian soldiers" and wounded eight others during a night training exercise using live
The story implied that the Air National Guard pilot might not have dropped the bomb if he had not had the pod, which allows a
pilot to see a target on the ground at night and designate it for his own laser-guided bomb. Without the pod, the pilot would
have depended on a ground controller to spot the target, the story said.
But the F-16 pilot apparently reported to his air controllers that he was being fired at from the ground and exercised his right of
self-defense. The muzzle flashes from the Canadians' weapons could have been visible through the pilot's night vision goggles,
as well as through the targeting pod.
What role, if any, the Litening pod played in the fatal attack might be revealed by the twin investigations being conducted by
U.S. and Canadian military experts.
The Litening II pod is a cigar-shaped electronic device, 7 feet long and 16 inches in diameter, that is mounted under a fighter's
fuselage. It has a high-resolution daylight video camera and second-generation forward-looking infrared sensor that display
images on a screen in the cockpit. It helps a pilot navigate and find targets in daylight or at night.
Rodriguez said the pods provide "a huge increase in capability." Without the pod, "trying to find things on the ground at night is
The forward-looking infrared sensor allows a pilot at night "to operate as if it were day," he said.
The pod also can direct a laser-guided bomb into a target with great accuracy.
The Air National Guard began to get the pods in 2000 and has a total of 63, Rodriguez said. The National Guard has asked
Congress for 96 more to equip all of the Air Guard's F-16s.
Without enough for all units, Rodriguez said, "we shuffle them around .. . We give them to the units preparing to deploy so they
can train on them."
Rodriguez did not know when the 183rd would have received the pods, but said, "by the time they deployed, they were trained
with them. It would be foolish to do otherwise."
The targeting system has a video recorder that tapes the mission and is used for intensive debriefings after each training flight,
"A lot of the time, the review of the tapes takes longer than the mission."
In addition to the training with the pods the 183rd would have had before being deployed to the Afghanistan theater, some of
its pilots might have flown with them previously while on active duty with the Air Force, he said.
Most Air Guard pilots come off active duty and tend to be far more experienced than the average active Air Force pilot,
From his own experience, Rodriguez said, "the Springfield, Illinois, wing is a good unit, with a good, solid reputation."