Targeting pods are now almost a baseline system on combat aircraft. Air forces have realised that such a system is a key tool to accomplish missions as planned – and with the twist of real-time changing operational requirements.
When Rafael in Israel first came out with its Litening targeting pod, customers were slow to react. Now, after selling 1,400 Litening pods to 27 customers around the world, the company’s forecast is for demand for another 500 Litening targeting pod in the next 5-7 years.
Wide usage has increased customers’ demands, with the Israeli air force (IAF) on the top of the list. This has resulted in a decision to develop what is currently referred to as a “future targeting pod”.
Some facts: the Litening is currently the integral targeting pod for the Eurofighter and Gripen fighter aircraft, and is also being considered by the Indian air force for its new fighters, and also for the the Brazilian ALX project.
Rafael has teamed up with Northrop Grumman for the marketing of the Litening in the US market, and in some other markets.
The current effort of the partners is on a request for information issued by the US Navy for a future targeting pod.
This contract will include 300 pods, and a demonstration is expected in 2017. The current Litening G4 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 data input from multiple sources, without further modifications to the pod or aircraft.
Rafael has not revealed the specs of the next-generation Litening, but from sources it can be understood that one of the operational demands is for a “persistent look” on the ground.
Israeli sources were ready to say that the new version will have better range and resolution. “It will also be capable of producing more useful data from each image,” one source says.
Another effort being made by Rafael is to adapt its Litening for use on stealthy platforms like the Lockheed Martin F-35.
These platforms have to carry weapon systems and other systems internally, in order to retain their stealth features.
The Israeli air force is a heavy user of the Litening. It makes sense that it will be carried by the F-35s expected to enter service in 2018.