Additional Northrop Grumman Litening targeting pods are to be purchased by the US Air Force under a contract designed to speed the acquisition of systems for a range of aircraft. Almost 250 Litening pods have already been acquired piecemeal for US Air Force Boeing F-15Es, Air National Guard Lockheed Martin F-16s and US Marine Corps Boeing AV-8Bs.

The new indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract will cover additional systems for these aircraft as well as pods for USAF Boeing B-52s and Fairchild A-10s and USMC Boeing F/A-18Ds. The US Air Force is also looking at equipping the Rockwell B-1B with a targeting pod.

The Iraq war has resulted in a renewed interest in close air support, says Northrop Grumman. During the war, three Litening pods on USMC AV-8Bs were modified with a video datalink to allow forward air controllers to verify targets. Additional pods to be acquired for AV-8Bs andF/A-18Ds will have this capability, which the USAF is interested in for its A-10s, the company says. The A-10s, as well as the B-52s, used borrowed pods during the war.

Northrop Grumman says the US Air Force plans to equip 50B-52s to carry Litening pods. The B-1 could be equipped if the USA modifies an arms-limitation treaty barring the aircraft from carrying external stores. A proposal has been forwarded to the US Departments of Defense and State on a modification that would allow the B-1 to carry pods and weapons externally, but still prevent the bomber carrying air-launched cruise missiles.

Lockheed Martin says its Sniper XR targeting pod, under development for the US Air Force, is on track to enter qualification testing and evaluation this month following successful operational utility evaluation flights on the F-15E and F-16 Block 30 and 50.

Source: Flight International