The Thomson-CSF ATLIS II (Automatic Tracking and Laser Integration System) is a French laser/electro-optical targeting pod developed in late 1970s. Initially it was developed for French Air Force SEPECAT Jaguar and Mirage-2000 aircraft. Later it was integrated with Mirage F-1 and US-built F-16 aircraft.
ATLIS-II is a laser targeting system which includes a laser spot tracker/range finder bore-sighted with a television camera. It also has a video tape recorder and sensors for steering optical line of sight.
ATLIS-II has a dual mode(Visible/Infra-Red) TV tracker and laser spot tracking system, which provides battlefield assessment and point tracking features to the operator. Information about low-signature moving and stationary targets can be obtained by it as well.
The pilot uses cross-hairs to mark a target, which is automatically locked by the laser-designator system. The laser beam is focused on it marking any movement of the target. Later when laser guided bombs are dropped, they are directed to the same target using inertial-guidance system. ATLIS decreases the pilot’s workload by enabling him to attack the targets of opportunity.
In 1985, Pakistan Air Force selected ATLIS-II for its F-16 aircraft, making it the first non-European operator of this system. ATLIS-II pod is carried on the 5L intake station on the F-16.
First public demonstration of dropping Laser Guided Bombs (LGB)with ALTIS-II was seen in Exercise High Mark 1989. Since then, ALTIS-II has been a key element of PAF’ s precision strike capability. Over the years precision targeting has been a distinct phenomenon over-viewed regularly in PAF’ s operational exercises.
In the recent PAF operations in Global War on Terrorism, precision targeting was a game changer. During close air support missions for Pak Army from late 2008 to mid-2009, PAF conducted more than 5,500 bombing missions and dropped 10,600 bombs in northwest tribal areas. More than 80% of the dropped munitions were LGB.PAF achieved direct hits at the militant hideouts without doing collateral damage to the civilian population.
By using laser spot tracker, the accuracy level of LGBs was increased. Without it, the pilot has to visually confirm the target or real time information has to be provided by UAV or ground forces with laser spot tracker. The latter not available to Pakistan Army, all reliance was on the training and skills of F-16 pilots/crew. During the debrief ATLIS footage was analyzed and all short comings were addressed.
ATLIS-II allows the sharing of target information among multiple aircraft participating in a mission.In aforementioned operations modified C-130E with Star Safire III forward-looking infrared sensor was used to illuminate the targets to the F-16s.The precision strikes in such time-boxed environment proved the mettle of Pakistani air crew.
Later in Exercises Red Flag(2010-4) and Green Flag (2010-9) six F-16B of No.9 Sqn participated in interdiction role. These realistic combat training exercises saw PAF F-16s delivering using ATLIS-II as the primary weapon to delivering LGBs.
Today after 26 years of service, ATLIS is still the standard weapon of Pakistani falcons. Even after Mid Life Update (MLU) of F-16 A/B fleet of PAF, ATLIS remain mainstay weapon in PAF.
ATLIS equipped No.11 Sqn F-16B deploying air brakes after a successful training mission. Note the empty multi-ejector racks, used to carry LGBs.
A F-16 taking off with one GBU-12 LGB and ATLIS pod for a training mission.
No.9 Sqn F-16B during Exercises Red Flag 2010-4. ATLIS-II pod is visible on 5L intake station.