TIALD is a second-generation laser designator pod, which initially entered service in the 1991 Gulf War when it was used as a laser designator for the bombs carried by Tornado GR1s. The pods are designed to be operable 24-hours a day and comprise a high-resolution FLIR (forward-looking infrared), a laser designator and a tracking system. Most previous designation systems required the pilot or weapon systems officer (WSO) to keep the target tracked manually; however, TIALD allows automatic tracking once the target is locked. Initially, the TIALD pod is pointed at the target by the aircraft’s navigation system; once the pilot or WSO has identified the target on his cockpit display the aiming cross is positioned over the target and the pod is switched into automatic tracking mode. At the appropriate moment during the attack, the TIALD laser is turned on, which provides the bomb’s guidance system with the required information to complete the attack. The whole process is recorded and can be replayed after landing to assess the success of the mission.
The TIALD pod was modified to provide a TV sensor in addition to the infrared sensor and, following a number of other upgrades, the current 400-Series pod is now flown on the Tornado aircraft. A further upgrade is planned to the pod sensors and electronics, after which it will be re-designated as the 500-Series pod.