The concept of low-altitude navigation and targeting infrared for
night (LANTIRN) originated from lessons learned during the Vietnam War. As the war dragged on, penetrating North Vietnamese air defenses at high altitude became increasingly difficult for American fighter pilots. Losses mounted, and pilots began flying high-speed, low-level bombing strikes, masking
themselves behind mountainous terrain. Shortly before reaching their targets, the aviators would pop up, pickle their bombs, then drop back down to low altitude for the egress. These tactics were effective during the day, but performing them at night was next to impossible.
After the Vietnam War ended, air force officials began to prepare for what many believed would be the next great battle: war against the Soviet Union. To defeat the Soviets, American fighter pilots
would need the ability to attack at night. Otherwise, Soviet tanks in Eastern Europe would have a strong advantage over U.S. and NATO troops.
LANTIRN was developed for one simple reason: so a pilot flying at night could navigate and deliver weapons as if he were flying during the day.