India has floated a tender for the delivery of more than 100 advanced targeting pods for its strike fighters, Two systems are under consideration – the French Damocles pod, already employed on Mirage 2000 and Rafale, offered by Thales of France, that has teamed with Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) for this program, and the Israeli Litening, the latest version of the targeting pod developed by RAFAEL. According to company officials, the Litening pods being offered are superior in technological terms. RAFAEL and Lockheed Martin are often competing targeting pod procurements worldwide as their products – Litening and Sniper are similar in capabilities and performance. In India, however, the US company remained out of the competition for unexplained reasons.
India is already operating previous generations of Litening on its fighter planes and RAFAEL has sourced Indian subcontractor significant contracts for the supply of subsystems and services for these products.
Both companies have passed the technical selection and are expected to demonstrate their pods in upcoming months. Selection of the Lowest Bidder (L1) will follow later this year (2013).
While the teaming Thales has struck with BEL positions it as a favorite supplier for MMRCA and Mirage 2000 upgrades, the advantages of commonality with existing and new targeting pods is not ignored by the IAF, even if it is not part of the parameters to be considered for the selection. Thales recently announced it is embarking on an improvement of its Damocles pod, a step likely to assist its product offering in India as well.
According to RAFAEL, the Litening pods deployed with the IAF could be upgraded to the same level as the new pods, bringing the total inventory of targeting pods to more than 200, all would be interchangeable between all strike aircraft configured to carry targeting pods. These aircraft could also carry our recce missions, using the RECCELITE pod that has recently become operational with the IAF.