Australia Orders Over $100M in LITENING Targeting Pods
In 2008, the Northrop Grumman/ Rafael LITENING surveillance and targeting pod was chosen as the preferred surveillance and weapons targeting system for Australia’s upgraded F/A-18A/B Hornet fighter aircraft, in a contract worth more than $100 million. While the make was not disclosed in releases, DID was able to get confirmation that the order was for advanced model LITENING AT pods, that the effort is part of the Defence Procurement Office, Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office’s Hornet Upgrade (HUG) program, and that the project value quoted is the unclassified value and extends beyond the acquisition of the pods
Australia’s has been running the Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office’s Hornet Upgrade project for its 71 RAAF F/A-18 A/B Hornets, and assessed 3 systems.
- Australia’s Options
- Contracts & Key Events
Australia’s Defence Procurement Office, Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office has been running the Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office’s Hornet Upgrade project, and assessed 3 systems: LITENING, Raytheon’s Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra-Red (ATFLIR) pod, and Lockheed Martin’s Sniper/ Pantera pod.
ATFLIR is currently in use on U.S. Navy F/A-18s (USMC F/A-18s use LITENING ATs); see “Pilots in Theater Clamoring for ATFLIR Pods” for a glimpse into ATFLIR’s use in Iraq, and how it changed the F/A-18s’ role.
Pantera was the export version of the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR targeting pod, whose in-theater performance on USAF F-15E Strike Eagles has also drawn plaudits.
In the end, however, it was the LITENING pod that won the contract. Its impressive success in the global defense market stems from the fact that it combined multiple sensors for maximum flexibility in a single pod, at low cost. Its introduction really created the market for these kinds of surveillance and targeting pods, and its value proposition still appears to be a valid positioning.
The LITENING AT system is a self-contained, multi-sensor and navigation system that enables fighter pilots to detect, acquire, track and identify ground targets for highly accurate delivery of both conventional and precision-guided weapons. It features advanced image processing for target identification and coordinate generation; a 640 x 512 pixel forward-looking infrared sensor; a new 1,004 x 1,004 pixel charge-coupled device television sensors; a laser spot tracker; an infrared laser marker; infrared laser designator/range finder; and air-to-ground data links.
Over the longer term, LITENING will be pushed by its new competitors, and its Israeli origins may well create a market space in which it cannot compete.
Contracts & Key Events
Dec 7/11: Northrop Grumman Corporation announces a 4-year, $8 million extension to the existing support contract for the RAAF’s LITENING AT pods and data links, through to September 2015.
Sept 8/05: Looks like some secrecy wires got crossed here. While the LITENING pods’ cost breakdown was classed by our Australian Ministry of Defence contact as “sensitive” and not to be disclosed, Northrop Grumman’s own news release confirms the figure of “37 targeting pods and spares beginning in 2006 and completing in 2007.”
Sept 5/05: Australia announces the sale. Defence Minister Robert Hill says that the LITENING AT pods will significantly improve the Hornet’s precision targeting and surveillance capabilities, and added that Northrop Grumman’s bid was chosen because it provided the greatest number of pods, as well as the best value for money.
In response to an enquiry, Australia’s DoD added that “Pod numbers and detailed cost breakdowns are sensitive and will not be disclosed.” Australian DoD.