In September 2006, QinetiQ was assigned the system integrator role for an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) program to integrate RAFAEL’s LITENING III surveillance and targeting pods onto the RAF’s Tornado GR4 attack aircraft in support of Operation Telic in Iraq.
Similar LITENING AT pods have been used successfully by American Harriers in Iraq, and targeting pods like LITENING, ATFLIR, and Sniper ATP have enabled fighter aircraft like the F-16, F/-18 and F-15 to operate in ground surveillance roles down to the level of watching specific exits from a house. That capability comes at an extremely high operating cost per hour, of course, but without lower-cost manned platforms in inventory capable of carrying a sensor pod and effective precision weapons, this has been the default response.
LITENING pods also allow for precision targeting in support of mobile units using Lt. Col. Labouchere’s successful “Bedouin approach,” and can help avoid some of the criticisms leveled at British Harrier’s in Afghanistan (which are also being remedied via new targeting pods).
QinetiQ, in partnership with the RAF Joint Test & Evaluation Group, under contract from the Tornado Integrated Project Team, carried out an extensive series of rig, ground and eventual UK based flight trials at MOD Boscombe Down, working closely with 41 R Squadron Fast Jet & Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit, and the RAF Tornado In-Service Software Maintenance Team (TISMT). The modified LITENING III, which Britain is also buying for its Eurofighter aircraft, was fitted onto an in-service Tornado GR4, then tested to ensure that it was fully qualified for flight and cleared for use with all onboard systems and in service weapons.
The resulting operational capability was delivered very quickly – it was in theater within 5 months of the request (by the end of January 2007), and has received positive reviews from the front lines. QinetiQ release.