$486M for more LITENING G4 Pods, Upgrades
“ATP-SE: LITENING Strikes as USAF Splits Future Targeting Pod Orders” covered the USAF’s recent multi-year, dual-buy award of cutting-edge surveillance and targeting pods from Lockheed Martin (Sniper ATP-SE), and Northrop Grumman (LITENING SE). The award was a breakthrough for Northrop Grumman, but they do have other American contracts to supply the US Marine Corps and the US Air Force Reserve/ National Guard.
In late December 2010, Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Rolling Meadows, IL received a $486 million contract modification from US Naval Air Systems Command. The firm has now confirmed that order’s precise makeup to DID…
July 27/11: The USMC has taken a step forward with their AV-8B Harriers:
“VMA-513 has also become the first Marine Corps Harrier squadron in combat to position the aircraft’s weapon targeting system [not specified, but LITENING is their only pod] on the belly of the jet [instead of using a wing pylon]. The new centerline configuration allows ordnance Marines to arm the Harrier with one more bomb, effectively doubling its payload… “It’s the first time we’ve done it in combat,” explained Staff Sgt. Joshua Gray, a VMA-513 ordnance staff noncommissioned officer in charge and Orlando, Fla., native. The modification to the aircraft is really new.””
Dec 21/10: A $486 million order covers 99 new LITENING G4 pods, 241 more kits that will upgrade existing LITENING AT Block 1 pods in service to the full G4 standard, and associated repair support for pods on American and allied A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, AV-8B Harrier IIs, EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare fighters, F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18A+/C/D Hornets, and B-52 bomber aircraft. Note that the presence of upgrade kits in this contract is a significant difference from the USAF’s ATP-SE multi-year deal, which does not include upgrade kits as an ordering option.
As one might guess from that aircraft roster, the new order under N00019-09-D-0025 combines purchases for the US Marines ($257.6M/ 53%) and elements of the US Air Force ($228.4/ 47%).
The new LITENING G4 is the basis for the USAFs LITENING-SE, and has demonstrated both air-ground and air-air capabilities in testing. LITENING 4 changes include an all-digital 1024 x 1024 pixel forward-looking infrared sensor (compared to the AT’s 640 x 512 pixel system); a similar 1K charge-coupled device TV sensor for daytime imaging; a Laser Target Imaging Program imaging system providing improved target recognition across a wide range of conditions; and a “plug and play” data link system that enables them to accept a variety of data links without further modifications to the pod or aircraft. Existing features like geolocation for GPS-guided weapon targeting, laser spot search and marking, etc., are all retained, and the pod’s design means that upgrades are generally a matter of swapping out older modules for newer ones.