US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet aircraft operating in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon gain the precision-targeting capabilities offered by Northrop Grumman's Litening advanced-targeting (AT) pod.

Litening AT is a self-contained, multi-sensor laser target-designating and navigation system that enables fighter pilots to detect, acquire, track and identify ground targets for highly accurate delivery of conventional and precision-guided weapons.

Additional US government funding outside the defence budget allowed the US Marine Corps to buy the first 24 Litening AT pods and mounting pylons for its fleet of F/A-18s. Deliveries will begin immediately and be completed within nine months. The total requirement is anticipated to be more than 100 pods.

Mike Lennon, vice president, targeting and surveillance programs of Northrop Grumman Defensive Systems Division, says: "Until now, Marine F/A-18s in Iraq and Afghanistan have been flying with Litening AT pods borrowed from their AV-8Bs. Combat experience has shown that Litening is the only system that provides the data link and cooperative targeting capabilities the Marines require for close air support."

The deal will bring the total number of Litening pods in the Marine Corps arsenal to more than 120. Following the successful integration and flight testing of the pods on the F/A-18 by a Marine Corps/US Navy/Northrop Grumman team last summer, the Marines quickly adopted Litening ATs on their F/A-18s to support troops in Iraq. Since then, Litening AT-equipped Hornets have flown daily close-air support missions, and have accumulated more then 15,000 combat hours.

More than 300 have been delivered to US forces and foreign military services to date. Litening AT and its predecessors, Litening II and Litening ER, are also currently operational on AV-8Bs flown by the Marine Corps and the Italian and Spanish navies, as well as on USAF A-10s, B-52s, F-15Es and F-16s. Together, all variants of the Litening AT pod have amassed approximately 350,000 flight hours, with more than 125,000 posted in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Source: Flight Daily News