The Improved Limb Atmospheric Spectrometer (ILAS), a solar occultation infrared satellite sensor, was launched in August 1996. The ILAS validation balloon campaigns were carried out from Kiruna, Sweden (68°N, 21°E), in February and March 1997 and Fairbanks, Alaska (65°N, 148°W), in April and May 1997. During these campaigns, measurements of nitric acid (HNO3) were made using infrared emission spectrometers (Cold Atmospheric Emission Spectral Radiometer, Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding-Balloon-Borne version 2, and farinfrared spectrometer) and infrared solar occultation spectrometers (Limb Profile Monitor of the Atmosphere and Mark IV interferometer). An in situ experiment (Chemiluminescence Detector) measured total reactive nitrogen (NOy,), from which HNO3 mixing ratios in the lower stratosphere were calculated. In addition, an in situ NOy, measurement was also made at 12 km altitude from the Deutsche Luft-und Raumfahrt Falcon aircraft in January 1997. The ILAS version 3.10 HNO3 mixing ratios obtained at the nearest location and averaged ILAS mixing ratios obtained within certain criteria were compared with the balloon data. The precision of the ILAS measurements was estimated from the random differences to be 0.8 parts per billion by volume (ppbv), corresponding to about 35% at 15 km and 10–15% at 20–35 km. While the absolute accuracy estimated from the systematic differences was as good as 0.5 ppbv (5%) at 20 km, the ILAS HNO3 mixing ratios were systematically lower than the balloon values by 1 ppbv (15–20%) at 25–30 km. The error in the altitude registration in the ILAS retrieval algorithm is a possible cause for the negative bias at higher altitudes.