The fighter jet camera that can read the time on Big Ben from the Isle of Wight

The technology of fighter planes has come a long way since the founding of the RAF, the world's oldest airforce, in 1918.

A new camera, which is attached to the underbelly of the RAF Tornado GR4, can spot tiny details up to 75 miles away.

That means that it would be able to read the time on London's Big Ben from the Isle of Wight, an island and county off the coast of Hampshire.

The RAF has had the camera in Afghanistan since 1st July.

The fighter jet camera that can read the time on Big Ben from the Isle of Wight

By Daily Mail Reporter
06th October 2009
Daily Mail

A new fighter jet camera which can read the time on Big Ben from the Isle of Wight has been hailed as a breakthrough for fighter pilots in Afghanistan.

The RAF Tornado GR4 technology - known as a Raptor - is used to zoom in on Taliban hideouts and snipers. It is one of the most advanced reconnaissance sensors in the world today.

The pod, which is just under two metres long, is fixed underneath the jets, enabling pilots overhead to see precise detail from miles in the air. It contains a dual-band sensor using both visible light and infrared, so can be used both day and night.

The Raptor pod can be seen attached to the underbelly of the Tornado GR4

Test flights showed the raptor can spot tiny details 75 miles away

Speaking at Kandahar Air Field, Wing Commander James Linter, officer commander 12 (Bomber) Squadron, said: 'It brings great flexibility to us and is particularly useful in Afghanistan.

'We have had them since July 1 - since then we have been able to deliver high quality imagery from amazing distances.

'One of the early testers flew over the Isle of Wight to test it. They were able to take a shot of the face of Big Ben.'

In the years just after World War I, the RAF was the world's largest airforce, with 22,647 aircraft, 103 airships, 133 front-line squadrons, 270 overseas aerodromes, with over 316,000 personnel, including 27,333 officers.

First used during the 2003 invasion of Iraq in Operation Telic, the RAF now has eight Raptor pods and two ground stations.

Raptor, standing for Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado, is built by BF Goodrich Aerospace. The infrared sensor offers superior haze-penetration in poor weather conditions, while the night time imagery can reveal details such as the fuel levels in storage tanks on the ground.

The camera has both visible light and infrared sensors so can be used during day and night missions

A Tornado GR4 is fitted with Raptor in Afghanistan

The pictures received by the pod can be transmitted via a live data-link system to image analysts at a ground station, or can be displayed in the cockpit during flight. It can also record for post-flight analysis.

The pod is capable of imaging over 200 separate points on any one flight.

Squadron Leader Jon Nixon said: 'The thing about Raptor and its strategic capability is that it can take a huge amount of imagery in a short space of time.'

In the past many reconnaissance pods have been designed to operate with the aircraft either overflying or passing very close to the target, but the Raptor works differently.

'The stand-off range of the sensors also allows the aircraft to remain outside heavily defended areas, thus minimising the aircraft’s exposure to enemy air-defence systems,' an RAF spokesman said.

The Raptor transmits data from the camera to a ground station (pictured) for advanced analysis
Cool. I'll get one when I get old, then I won't have to risk a broken hip to go see the critters and other sights in my neighborhood.

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