LITENING II, Extended Range (ER) and Advanced Technology (AT…

LITENING II, Extended Range (ER) and Advanced Technology (AT) targeting and navigation pods

Manufacturer:

Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Israelís RAFAEL

Characteristics:

The LITENING pod is an 87-inch long targeting pod used by a variety of strike aircraft, including Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-16 fighters, A-10 tank-killer aircraft and Boeing [BA] B-52H bombers and AV-8B Harrier II strike aircraft used by the Marine Corps. It has also been tested on Boeingís F/A-18D. The II variant has a charge-coupled device (CCD) television, laser rangefinder and designator and a 256 forward-looking infrared (FLIR) package. The ER incorporates an improved 640 x 512 FLIR. Marine Corps pods also use a videocassette recorder, and the service is introducing a data link capability for the pod. The AT is an improved version of Northrop Grumman's earlier LITENING II and LITENING Extended Range (ER) pods. It is equipped with charge-coupled device television cameras, a 640 x 512 FLIR system, the capacity to deliver "J-series" weapons such as Boeing's Joint Direct Attack Munition, options for multitarget cueing and improved laser designation and spotting functionality. The AT also has night-vision goggle compatibility.

Combat Use:

LITENING first saw action onboard Harriers and Air National Guard and Reserve F-16s during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 over Afghanistan. Marine Corps LITENINGs were delivered 10 months ahead of schedule to fill immediate combat requirements. During Operation Iraqi Freedom this year, the pod saw action on F-16s, B-52Hs, Harriers and A-10s.

Foreign Users:

Israel uses LITENING pods. Both Italy and Spain use LITENING for their Harrier fleets. Presently, other foreign options include the possibility of adding Canada as a customer.

Analysis:

The LITENING and Raytheonís ATFLIR lost to Lockheed Martinís Sniper Extended Range (XR) pod for the Air Forceís Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) requirement in 2001. However, as Sniper XR is not scheduled to enter service until much later this year, the Air Force issued Northrop Grumman a $32.6 million contract earlier this year to equip 24 F-15Es built buy Boeing with the ER variant. Future plans for LITENING AT include automatic target recognition capacity and infrared countermeasures.