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ROVER is the abbreviation for "remotely operated video enhaced receiver" and is a system for "giving boots on the ground an eye in the sky" (The Hook).

The ROVER system allowes forward ground controllers to see real-time images acquired by the aircraft’s sensors by transmitting the images to his laptop. Usage of ROVER greatly improves the forward ground controller’s reconnaissance and target identification, which are essential to the combat air support mission in Iraq. The development team arrived aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Dec. 10, 2005 to install the first ROVER systems onto the Tomcats. The squadron maintainers are quickly learning the modification process, providing both VF-213 and VF-31 with complete ROVER capability within a few days. ROVER upgrades to Carrier Air Wing 8 Tomcats will more than double the number of aircraft flying Operation Iraqi Freedom missions with this unique capability. Before ROVER capability, ground controllers had to rely on "visual talk-ons" to hunt for IEDs, track insurgents or follow suspicious vehicles. The ground controller would have a map he used to guide the pilots where they needed to go. "The ground controllers are excited because it eliminates talk-ons. It gives them a lot more confidence when making decisions such as dropping bombs, because they have the same real-time bird's eye view as [the pilots] do." A joint VF-31/VF-213 investigation revealed that it would be possible to modify the F-14D Tomcat with off-the-shelf technology for a mere $800 per aircraft. A team of F-14D experts from the PMA-241 staff at Naval Air Station Paxtuxet River, Md., was presented with this idea in early November, and were able to research, develop, and field this technology within a six-week window. Grumman employees from Naval Air Station Oceana and members of the fleet support team from Naval Air Systems Command Depot (NADEP) Jacksonville were assembled to perform the aircraft modification.

The ROVER system can be identified on Tomcats by a small antenna as shown in the below image.

All graphics Copyright © Torsten Anft
Text: partly US Navy

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