$18M Prepares Datalinks for Next-Gen LITENING
The LITENING family of pods has become the most widely-used international solution for adding sophisticated surveillance and precision strike capabilities to fighter and bomber aircraft, defining the price:performance target for its sector. An international agreement between developer RAFAEL and Northrop Grumman divides responsibility for global marketing, and the most current version in Northrop’s inventory is the US-standard LITENING AT, with over 500 pods sold and 400 fielded on AV-8B, A-10, B-52H, F-15E, F-16 and F/A-18 C/D aircraft. Together, all variants of the LITENING pod have amassed more than 750,000 flight hours, more than half of which have been logged under deployed and combat conditions.
With Lockheed Martin’s new Sniper ATP is coming on strong in the global marketplace, however, the LITENING partnership needs to fight to stay ahead of the curve. Fortunately, the LITENING pods are highly modular, allowing rapid upgrades. A recent $18 million contract from U.S. Air Force Materiel Command’s Aeronautical Systems Center lays the groundwork for some important upgrades, as Northrop prepares it next-generation offering. Under the new contract,Northrop Grumman’s Defensive Systems Division will deliver in excess of 201 new data links under Plug and Play II, to be fielded on a variety of aircraft beginning in September 2008 and continuing through January 2010.
The new data link set features multiple frequencies, while retaining compatibility with the ROVER portable receiving station that lets U.S. and coalition ground forces exchange targeting data and video feeds. In addition, Plug & Play II provides a new high capacity digital recording capability for both video and metadata collected during a mission, and can include 2-way data transfer functionality with an onboard server to support network operations. In addition to approaching the capabilities of dedicated reconnaissance pods, and adding the new data link set, the 4th generation version of LITENING will feature the most advanced 1024 x 1024 pixels (1k x 1k) FLIR sensor for improved target detection and recognition ranges under day/night conditions (already incorporated); new sensors for improved target identification; and advanced target recognition and identification features. NGC release.