ELOP Condor 2 Reconnaissance Pod
Although heavily dependant on US equipment, Israel has, nevertheless, developed a highly effective defence industry, sometime by force of circumstances. In particular, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) have long recognised the need for timely and effective reconnaissance and this resulted in the IDF developing and then deploying small battlefield surveillance UAVs, equipped with electro-optical sensors, before any other country. One Israeli company that has had considerable success in recent years is Electro-Optics Industries Ltd (ELOP), a subsidiary company of Elbit Systems, who have been responsible for many of the electro-optical sensors mounted on Israeli UAVs.
From the mid 1960’s for reconnaissance duties the Israeli Air Force (IAF) used up to six different Mirage IIICJ’s equipped with either the Tashbetz, Moshel, Tarmil, Shfoferet, Tznee'ut or universal camera systems, installed in various interchangeable nosecones. When the Kfir entered service a dedicated interchangeable reconnaissance nose, known as Tznee'ut Meshopar, was developed to give the aircraft a wider capability. Examples of the various different types of Mirage and Kifr reconnaissance noses can be seen here
The reconnaissance capabilities of the Mirage IIICJs and Kfirs were supplemented by four locally modified F-4Es, two for vertical photography and two for panoramic photography, with various cameras installed once again in the nose, replacing the existing gun ammunition drum. However, to avoid having to get to close to a highly defended target, Israel acquired the US G-139 pod housing a highly advanced General Dynamics HIAC-1 camera which allowed the aircraft to conduct Long-Range Oblique Photography (LOROP). Unfortunately, the weight and size of this external pod had a severe effect on the performance of the F-4E and eventually this camera was installed in the nose of three specially modified F-4E(S) aircraft.
The introduction into IAF service of the multi-role F-16 nessitated the need for a reconnaissance system the aircraft could carry but, because of the design of the aircraft, this did not allow the option of installing a camera system in the nose of the aircraft. Instead the IAF have purchased a state of the art LOROP external pod designed and built by ELOP and known as the Condor 2. The Condor 2 is an advanced electro-optical photographic system that provides very large volumes of high resolution reconnaissance imagery in near real time. The imagery is provided in both the visible and infrared spectral bands from standoff distances beyond the enemy’s air defence systems.
The Condor 2 transmits and / or records all images taken during the flight based on a pre-determined mission plan or aircrew decisions. The pod can transmit imagery as it is taken or transmit images previously recorded whilst taking new images. The imagery is sent to a dedicated Ground Image Exploitation Station (GIES) via a data link, either in real-time or when determined by aircrew – alternatively imagery can be downloaded after the aircraft lands. The GIES can quickly analyse the imagery and transmit target details, co-ordinates and images to attack aircraft, allowing weapons to be fired at the targets from outside air defence range. The Condor 2 pod is fully compliant with the flight envelopes of the F-16 and F-4.
This state-of-the-art reconnaissance pod and associated systems facilitate the delivery of timely and accurate information, enabling quick decisions for rapid response initiatives. They provide ideal ‘sensor to shooter’ synergy, significantly reducing the time gap between identification and response.