Northrop Grumman and the US Navy have successfully conducted the first flight-test of LITENING advanced targeting pod on the F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft.

As part of the test, the F/A-18 pilots carried out a series of combat mission indicative operations and manoeuvres to assess the surveillance and autonomous target tracking capabilities of the targeting pod.

The drills included air-to-air target tracking, ground moving target tracking and target designation.

The test also allowed pilots to use LITENING’s eye-safe training laser mode, which provides realistic training to operators as well as to the combat controllers on ground.

According to the company, no advance training was provided to the pilots to undertake the manoeuvres conducted during this test.

This signifies that the LITENING pod can be used easily by the F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots.

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Northrop Grumman navigation, targeting and survivability vice-president James Conroy said: “This first flight demonstrated LITENING’s ability to rapidly add modern, upgradeable mission capabilities to the Super Hornet.

“The pod’s digital video, autonomous target tracking, and laser sensors will give Naval aviators an entirely new set of capabilities for operations over land and sea today, and the growth capabilities built into LITENING’s modular design ensure that the pod can evolve to meet changing requirements.”

LITENING pods can provide two-way secure communications in multiple frequency bands. It comes with a Plug-and-Play III data link system and can be customised for various intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman was selected to replace the US Navy’s conventional targeting pods equipped on the F/A-18 aircraft fleet.

Northrop Grumman’s targeting pods are also in service with the US Air Force, Marine Corps and Air National Guard, with over 900 pods delivered worldwide.

Northrop Grumman evaluated its LITENING advanced targeting pod capabilities on US Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet. Credit: © Northrop Grumman Corporation.