At the end of September 2010, the USAF dropped something of a bombshell. Under their $2.3 billion Advanced Targeting Pod – Sensor Enhancement (ATP-SE) contract, the service that had begun standardizing on one future surveillance and targeting pod type decided to change course, and split its buys.
This decision is a huge breakthrough for Northrop Grumman, whose LITENING pod had lost the USAF’s initial 2001 Advanced Targeting Pod competition. As a result of that competition, the USAF’s buys had shifted from LITENING to Sniper pods, and Lockheed Martin’s Sniper became the pod of choice for integration onto new USAF platforms. Since then, both of these pods have chalked up procurement wins around the world, and both manufacturers kept improving their products. That continued competition would eventually change the landscape once again.
In January 2015, Rafael announced that their upcoming upgrade that they call G-4 Advanced outside the U.S., and “G-5” for the Americans will have air-to-air targeting capabilities.
In addition to more diverse targeting, the pods are said to feature inter-asset communications and sensor sharing capabilities – in essence some of the whiz-bang features touted in the F-35 platform that is supposed to push the F/A-18 into obsolescence.