The introduction of the Lockheed Martin F-35 into the Israeli air force (IAF) in 2016 or 2017 symbolises a new era with many side effects.
The advanced fighter has created a full wave of changes long before it is delivered to the IAF.
As I reported here, Israeli companies are developing weapon systems that will be carried in the weapons bay of the fighter.
Washington objected to almost all Israeli requests to equip the F-35 with Israeli-made systems such as radar, but Israel was left to decide on the weapons.
And that led to a need to adapt some systems that are carried now on under-wing- or under-fuselage pods so that they will be installed internally in a way that will not compromise the stealth features of the F-35.
The IAF will not operate the F-35 without an advanced version of the Rafael Litening targeting pod. It is used now on all inventory and is considered an “operational must”.
As I mentioned, stealth platforms have to carry weapon systems and other systems internally to maintain the stealth features.
Rafael will not elaborate on the effort, but said that this is an “expected evolution”.
It has so far sold more than 1,400 Litening pods, some through Northrop Grumman, its US partner.
Last year, Rafael confirmed that it was in the advanced stages of developing the fifth generation of the Litening.
The new version is being developed with features that will facilitate its installation on large unmanned air systems (UAS) such as the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP.
The Litening G4, as currently sold, includes a full digital 1024×1024 pixel forward-looking infrared sensor and an improved TV sensor for daytime imaging.
The G4 has been equipped with a datalink system that enables it to receive a variety of inputs from multiple sources, without further modifications to the pod or aircraft.
A Rafael source said that the increasing demand for the Litening stems from the operational need to gain a “persistent wide area look” on the ground and to have the best capability to use precision guided weapons systems on the “right targets”.