|Rafale B carrying a Lockheed Martin Sniper pod|
Apparently, this "photoshop montage" officially released by Dassault Aviation was a first hint of a possible future integration of the Lokheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 Sniper advanced targeting pod on Qatari Rafale.
2 Days ago, IHN Jane's published an article confirming that the american pod integration was indeed being discussed for export Rafale customers. Jane's points out that Egypt already operates the Sniper on its F-16 and could logically wish to use them on its 24 Rafale fighter jets.
Moreover, the UAE could also be interested by the Sniper in case of a Rafale purchase. They currently use the Damocles on their Mirage 2000-9 and the Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-32 pod on their F-16E/F, but some of these "Desert Falcon" would have been recently spotted with sniper pods as well. This could indicate that this equipement is being tested by the Emirate state.
Although the Thales Damocles used by the Rafale today is able to operate efficiently at very long range, day or night in chalanging weather conditions, it lacks the high resolution NIR/visible channel of the Lockheed Martin Sniper which is particularly adapted to current air operations in the middle east. Indeed, it allows accurate identification of vehicles and individuals on the ground, even in cluterred hurban zones.
This would explain why a Sniper integration is asked by Rafale customers who can't wait for the Damocles upgrade (Talios) due to enter service in 2018.