The AN/AAQ-28(V) LITENING targeting pod is an advanced precision targeting pod system currently operational with a wide variety of aircraft worldwide. LITENING significantly increases the combat effectiveness of the aircraft during day, night and under-the-weather conditions in the attack of ground and air targets with a variety of standoff weapons (i.e., laser-guided bombs, conventional bombs and GPS-guided weapons). The thousandth pod was sold in October 2010.
LITENING is an integrated targeting pod that mounts externally to the aircraft. The targeting pod contains a high-resolution, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor that displays an infrared image of the target to the aircrew; it has a wide field of view search capability and a narrow field of view acquisition/targeting capability of battlefield-sized targets. The pod also contains a CCD camera used to obtain target imagery in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. An on-gimbal inertial navigation sensor establishes line-of-sight and automatic boresighting capability.
The pod is equipped with a laser designator for precise delivery of laser-guided munitions. A laser rangefinder provides information for various avionics systems, for example, navigation updates, weapon deliveries and target updates. The targeting pod includes an automatic target tracker to provide fully automatic stabilized target tracking at altitudes, airspeeds and slant ranges consistent with tactical weapon delivery maneuvers. These features simplify the functions of target detection and recognition, and permit attack of targets with precision-guided weapons on a single pass.
The research and development program began at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' Missiles Division in Israel, with subsequent completion of LITENING I for use in the Israeli Air Force. In 1995 Northrop Grumman Corporation teamed with Rafael for further development and sales of the LITENING pod.
Northrop Grumman Corporation and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems completed product improvements on the "Basic Pod" including a third generation FLIR, laser marker and software upgrades (LITENING II) which was fielded beginning in 1999.
Northrop Grumman and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems subsequently replaced the "320x256" FLIR with a latest technology "640x512" FLIR. This pod, known as LITENING ER, extended the target detection range and was fielded in 2001. The newest version, LITENING AT, is in production and was fielded in 2003. It further extends target detection and recognition ranges, improves the target coordinate generation accuracy, and provides multi-target cueing.
LITENING AT features a plug-and-play bay configured to accept a wide variety of data-links and recorders. Plug and Play II data-link capability offers warfighters increased range, digital data recording and an option to incorporate secure, two-way communications over ultra-high frequency (UHF) radios. LITENING's Plug and Play I, introduced in 2003, was the first data-link to be incorporated in a third generation targeting pod.
LITENING G4, which began to be delivered to U.S. forces in 2008, added new sensors for improved target identification and other advanced target recognition and identification features. The LITENING G4 provides significant enhancements in terms of both recognition range and image quality due to Rafaels' AVP imaging capability. The G4's technologies include a full 1Kx1K forward looking infrared and charge-coupled device, as well as short wave infrared laser imaging sensors, color symbology, tracker improvement and enhanced zoom. The LITENING Gen 4 technology and capability is also available in a kit form that allows users to upgrade their currently fielded LITENING pods. The Royal Danish Air Force is the first international partner to take delivery of G4 pods. Rafael Advanced Systems announced on the eve of DefExpo 2014 a large order for 150+ LITENING targeting pods for the Indian Air Force's combat aircraft fleet. LITENING G4 pods have been chosen by the Indian Air Force for its frontline fighter aircraft, including the Su-30 MKI, MiG-29 and others.
LITENING SE provides laser ranging and designation in support of weapon delivery, navigational functions, and recording and data-linking of generated imagery and data. This version includes a Plug-N-Play (PnP) III(TM) digital two-way, data link LRU inside the pod. The pods are being delivered as part of the United States Air Force's Advanced Targeting Pod – Sensor Enhancement (ATP-SE) program.
The Litening III, used on the UK's RAF Tornado and Typhoon aircraft, as well as the Italian Air Force AMX, also provides still image capture for reconnaissance missions in addition to the targeting capabilities found on other models.
Rafael sees an increased market in the future because of the move to stealth platforms which must have targeting systems built in. The company is developing a new model to compete for the F-35 requirement. At present prototype F-35's have the equivalent of a Lockheed Martin Sniper XR built in.
Litening II Pods supplied by Rafael/Zeiss Optronik joint venture
LITENING III RD & EF pods supplied by Ultra Electronics Limited