Dutch RNAF Selects LITENING AT Targeting-Surveillance Pods
The Royal Netherlands Air Force, which has already selected RAFAEL’s REECELITE pod for aerial reconaissance, recently selected [release in Dutch] Northrop Grumman & RAFAEL’s 3rd-generation LITENING Advanced Targeting (AT) pods for their F/A-16 Advanced Targeting program to replace their existing LANTIRN twin-pod sets. Under the terms of the contract, which Northrop Grumman described to DID as “over $40 million,” they will deliver 20 targeting pods and spares to the Royal Netherlands Air Force beginning in 2007. Final deliveries will take place in 2008.
LITENING AT was selected following a full competitive analysis that included Lockheed’s Sniper XR and RAFAEL’s LITENING III as alternative finalists. So, what exactly does LITENING AT offer, and how come Northrop Grumman ended up competing against partner RAFAEL?
The AAQ-28 (V) LITENING AT pod is a self-contained, multi-sensor system that lets fighter pilots detect, watch, acquire, auto-track and target things viewed with highly accurate delivery of laser-guided or GPS-guided weapons. LITENING AT features advanced image processing for target identification; coordinate generation for GPS weapons; a 640 x 512 pixel forward-looking infrared sensor for effective day and night operations; a new 1,024 x 1,024 pixel charge-coupled device (1k CCD) television sensor; a new dual waveband infrared laser designator and range finder; a laser spot tracker; an infrared laser marker; and an optional air-to-ground data link and digital video recorder.
Northrop Grumman’s release notes that this contract brings the total number of LITENING pods ordered to over 470, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force joins the American armed forces, Italian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, and Spanish Navy as customers for the LITENING AT.
Under the terms of the international partnership, Northrop Grumman generally has the lead for US DoD and Foreign Military Sales opportunities involving current American platforms, including a worldwide lead for F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier II platforms. Israel’s RAFAEL has the lead on international programs that are commercial in nature, i.e. don’t involve US platforms or US-centric sales subject to export approvals. Its partnerships with other firms to outfit F-4F Phantom, Tornado, JAS-39 Gripen, and various Indian Air Force aircraft are a good set of cases in point.
This arrangement is sometimes adjusted based on the specific local competition, of course, if the partners believe that adjustment will improve their competitive odds. The Dutch competition appears to fall into kind of a grey zone, especially given the prior Dutch order for the LITENING-derivative RECCELITE pods from RAFAEL; as such, it appears the two partners simply decided to throw both Northrop Grumman’s LITENING AT and RAFAEL’s LITENING III variants into the competition.
DID thanks reader David Vandenberghe and Northrop Grumman for their assistance with this article.