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Advanced Airborne Targeting and Navigation Pod

LITENING is under contract with the United States Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard, as well as six international air forces. The USMC has purchased the LITENING Targeting Pod to meet the precision attack requirement for the AV-8B Harrier. Northrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector, located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois is partnered with RAFAEL of Israel to produce these systems.

LITENING pods are currently fielded with Air National Guard (ANG) F-16s, U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) AV-8Bs, and U.S. Air Force F-15Es. LITENING ER's predecessor, the LITENING II system with a 256 FLIR, is also operational on ANG and Air Force Reserve Command F-16s and on AV-8Bs owned and operated by the USMC, Italy and Spain.

One of the primary lessons learned from the Gulf War was that modern air forces need the ability to operate 24 hours a day in adverse weather conditions and to deliver precision guided weapons. In Desert Storm, aircraft using precision weapons typically destroyed with just two bombs targets which in World War II required 9,000 bombs and in Vietnam 300. The pods used in Desert Storm were expensive, single purpose systems which required multiple pods to perform various missions. Until LITENING, no system incorporated in a single pod all the features required by a modern air force. LITENING, however, combines multiple sensors for maximum flexibility in a single pod at low cost.

Active-duty aircraft have a precision-strike capability, thanks to the advanced Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared Night System. Air Force Reserve Command is providing a similar capability for its fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons by acquiring the new LITENING II Precision Attack Targeting System. The LITENING II system being purchased is similar to LANTIRN in size and system interface. However, it provides improved reliability and maintainability, along with state-of-the-art additional capability. The additional capability will include laser spot tracking, laser marking, ranging, and dual sensor input from both a forward-looking infrared camera and a state-of-the-art daytime video camera for greater flexibility under varying environmental conditions.

Operations in Bosnia highlighted the need for a precision-strike capability within the Reserve. The nature of the Bosnia operation mandated minimum collateral damage and maximum effectiveness per sortie. Although Reserve forces were ready and willing to support the mission, their lack of a precision-delivery capability significantly inhibited their participation. The requirement was identified at a Reserve and Air National Guard weapons and tactics conference in 1994. About two years later the Air Force initiated an engineering and feasibility study to identify options. The next step was to approach the F-16 system program office, which proceeded with the acquisition effort and actually evaluated and compared available systems. This took more than a year and a half. The team of Northrop Grumman Corp. and Rafael, the Israeli Armament Development Authority, has been awarded the contract to supply the sensor pods to both the Guard and the Reserve. Rafael supplies the forward (sensor) section, and Northrop Grumman supplies the aft (electronics) section of the pod. It's a $53 million program that includes support equipment, training, and initial maintenance support. The Reserve has 71 F-16s at four different units: the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB; the 944th FW at Luke AFB, Ariz.; the 301st FW at Carswell ARS, Texas; and the 482nd FW at Homestead ARS, Fla. Each wing will get eight pods.

LITENING is an advanced airborne infrared targeting and navigation pod. Designed to improve both day and night attack capabilities, LITENING presents pilots with real-time, FLIR and CCD imagery. It is fully operational 24 hours a day and in adverse weather conditions. Litening II can acquire targets altitudes of up to 40,000 feet, versus the 25,000 feet typical of the LANTIRN pod.

LITENING design enables the fighter air crew to carry out the following missions/tasks:

  • Detection/Recongnition/Identification/Laser Designation of surface targets
  • Accurate delivery of Laser Guided Bombs, cluster and general purpose bombs
  • Performance of low level night flights
  • Laser spot detection
  • Identification of aerial targets from BVR ranges

In order to accomplish all these tasks, LITENING employs 5 main sensors located on a single optical bench in the forward section of LITENING: Litening components diagram

LITENING uses a high performance FLIR with 3 Fields of View. The wide FOV is displayed on the head-up for navigation while Medium and Narrow FOVs are used for target selection and are displayed on a heads-down display.

CCD camera
The CCD camera significantly improves daytime performance when compared to the FLIR selection.

Laser designator / range-finder
LITENING uses a 100 mJ laser to designate targets selected by the air crews and provides guidance to the Laser Guided Bomb.

Laser spot designator
The laser spot detector detects the laser energy from a secondary source, enabling ground or airborne Forward Air Controllers to designate the targets for the fighter aircraft. This feature is not present in any of the competitor pods.

Strap-down system
The SDS aligns LITENING to the aircraft line-of-sight electronically, improves target tracking and stabilizes the seeker.

All these sensors incorporated in a single pod provide the fighter aircrew with the flexibility to perform multiple missions and make LITENING the most cost effective solution available.


On 28 February 2001 the Air Force announced a proposed contract modification to require the delivery of LITENING II Precision Attack Targeting Pods from Northrop Grumman Corporation for use on AV-8B Harrier II aircraft. The LITENING II will provide for improved targeting capabilities. The contract modification will be structured to provide for one year of LITENING II requirements. The contract type anticipated is Firm Fixed Price Contract for a Quantity of 47 pods. The planned requirements include the LITENING II targeting pod, required support equipment, spares, interim contractor support, contractor logistics support, test support and shipping containers. The LITENING II will be acquired as a Non Developmental Item (NDI). To meet this requirement the targeting pod must contain a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera, a Charged Couple Devise (CCD) camera, designation laser, Laser Spot Tracker (LST), and a laser marker. The system must utilize two level maintenance, and be currently flight tested on the AV-8B Harrier II aircraft. The LITENING II pods will be acquired through the use of sole source justification from the Northrop Grumman Corp. Rolling Meadows, IL.

In early 2003 the US Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) successfully integrated RAFAEL/Northrop Grumman Corporation's LITENING II precision targeting system into its B-52H aircraft. This marks the seventh U.S. military aircraft type to integrate the company's LITENING system. A successful operational utility evaluation of the LITENING system onboard the B-52H was accomplished recently through the combined efforts of the AFRC, Air Combat Command, B-52 System Program Office, Oklahoma City ALC, Tinker Air Force Base Okla., The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman's Defensive Systems Division and teammate RAFAEL. After lab integration at Boeing's Wichita, Kan., facilities, initial operational evaluation missions of this new combat capability for the B-52H were successfully conducted at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. Additional flights, including the Extended Range version, will continue at Barksdale. Integration of the LITENING system on the B-52 provides the AFRC with alternatives for conducting precision targeting, day and night, that other systems cannot currently provide. Employment of the LITENING targeting system on such a long range and endurance, heavy payload platform as the B-52 is a transformational capability for the warfighter.

For the first time in combat history, a B-52 Stratofortress used a LITENING Advanced Airborne Targeting and Navigation Pod to target facilities at an airfield in northern Iraq on April 11, 2003. A crew of reservists from the 93rd Bomb Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and active duty airmen from the 23rd Bomb Squadron, Minot AFB, N.D., flew the bomber from a forward operating location to successfully drop one laser-guided GBU-12 munition on a radar complex and one on a command complex at the Al Sahra airfield northwest of Tikrit using the LITENING system. The radar navigator, in this case, identified the targets with the imagery provided by the pod, then guided the GBU-12s to the targets with the LITENING laser, successfully striking the targets.


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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:51:41 ZULU