LITENING incorporates in a single pod all the targeting
features required by a modern strike fighter. The LITENING program,
launched by Israel’s Research and Development authority RAFAEL in 1992,
combines multiple sensors for maximum flexibility in a single pod at low
cost. The original pod included a 1st Generation FLIR, a TV
camera, a flash-lamp powered laser designator, laser spot tracker for
tracking target designated by other aircraft or from the ground, and an
electro-optical point and inertial tracker, which enabled continuous
engagement of the target even when the target is partly obscured by
clouds or countermeasures.
Israel Air Force/Lockheed Martin F-16D equipped with a Rafael Litening I
targeting pod. The IAF plans to procure the more advanced version of Litening III for its F-16C/D/I and F-15Is, in addition to the versions
currently deployed. Below: Litening II breakdown view.
This integrated array enabled the pilot to effectively
detect, recognize, identify, track and engage ground targets in day,
night and under adverse weather conditions. With the pod’s systems they
can designate such targets by laser, for attack by other aircraft or by
precision guided weapons carried on board. The pod integrates the
necessary laser rangefinder and designator, required for the delivery of
Laser Guided Bombs, cluster and general purpose bombs. Laser spot
detection is utilized in cooperative missions, for rapid orientation,
detection and recognition of targets, marked by other forces.
Identification of aerial targets from BVR ranges is also provided with
the INS assisted gimbaled sensors, as the sensors can continuously point
to the target’s direction, irrelevant to the aircraft position, or
interference of clouds or obscurants. This combination also enables
employment of the sensors in “point of interest” mode, where LITENING
enables free maneuvering during and after the attack path, while
maintaining the target clearly visible and marked for precision attack.
The same sensors can provide imagery for night navigation as well as hit
verification and battle damage assessment after the attack.
at Right: Litening II+ pod fitted to an Air National Guard F-16
The evolution of the Litening pod continued with the
Litening III version, which utilized a more capable Gen III (3-5micron)
FLIR, with a 640x480 digital detectors array. This system is also
equipped with a target marker, which improves the coordination of ground
and air forces, by designation of targets by day or night. Litening III
system is also equipped with a dual-wavelength diode-pumped laser, which
is compatible with training (eyesafe) and wartime operational modes. The
system also employs electronic image stabilization, to provide cleaner
images of targets, acquired at long standoff range.
Logistically, the integration of the pod is easy and
straightforward; it can fit the centerline or E/O pod mounts available
with most modern aircraft and require no structural changes in the
aircraft. Pods can also be installed on different aircraft, in support
of specific missions. For example, the US Reserves currently field eight
pods per wing. The pod requires minimal maintenance and technical
support on the flight line. It is self boresighting in flight, therefore
requires no alignment prior to the mission and improved accuracy during
The Israeli targeting
pod was procured by14 air forces, including the US Air Force Reserve's
and Air National Guards for their F-16 Block 25/30/32 Fighting Falcon.
Other air forces operating the system include the US Marine Corps
(AV-8B), Israeli air Force (F-16), Spanish and Italian Navy (AV-8B) and
Spanish air force (F/A-18), German Air Force (Tornado IDS), and the
Venezuela (F-16A/B). The pods were also selected for South Africa’s
Grippens, India’s Mirage 2000, MiG-27 and Jaguar. The most recent
inquiry for the pods came in March, for a planned procurement of F-16s
by Austria. The pod is also fully integrated in the Eurofighter, F-5E,
MiG-21 and other types. Testing are underway to integrate the pod with
Boeing F-15I operated by the Israel Air Force.