The U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets just completed initial flight testing with the LITENING advanced targeting pod, a targeting system that improves the accuracy of munitions dropped or fired from warplanes.
It added that “the pod’s digital video, autonomous target tracking, and laser sensors will give Naval aviators an entirely new set of capabilities for operations over land and sea today, and the growth capabilities built into LITENING’s modular design ensure that the pod can evolve to meet changing requirements.”
Northrop Grumman also explained to The Drive more specifics about the targeting pod.
"LITENING features daylight and infrared (IR) sensors with digital, high-definition video and advanced picture-in-picture capability that can display multiple simultaneous views. Plug-and-play data links enable secure, two-way communications and the pod’s modular design is ready for evolving mission requirements (including the already fielded color CCD and next-generation capabilities currently in development).”
“It also offers an eye-safe laser mode for realistic training. The pod’s laser imaging sensors offer more accurate identification to overcome challenges to traditional IR imaging. After the mission, a full data recording of all sensor inputs is available for analysis. These capabilities will give Naval aviators enhanced and new capabilities for their missions."
A video published by Northrop Grumman overlying a harbor shows what the images from the LITENING ATP look like to the pilot and simultaneously shows infrared, narrow, and high-definition wide views.
Israel’s Rafael defense corporation developed the original LITENING I pod for the Israeli Air Force. However, the United States took note of the targeting pod and in the mid-1990s Northrop Grumman decided to further refine the targeting pod for use on American warplanes. The American refinements improved the targeting pod’s image processing capabilities, resulting in the LITENING II.
The original LITENING pod and its subsequent iterations have proven to be highly successful. Rafael claims that over 900 of their targeting pods have been sold to customers worldwide.
The U.S. Navy just received its first Block III Super Hornets last year. They are warplanes that incorporate modernizations that help mitigate the fourth-generation fighter’s radar signature, wider pilot displays, and greater networking and processing power. Thanks to one of the world’s most advanced targeting pods, the U.S. Navy’s Super Hornets will likely remain in service for many years to come.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.
Image: Flickr/U.S. Navy.