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LITENING AT Targeting System to be Integrated on F/A-18D Aircraft

An F-18 at work
Rolling Meadows - Mar 11, 2004
Northrop Grumman is supporting the integration of its LITENING AT targeting system onboard U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18D aircraft. LITENING AT is a self-contained, multisensor laser target designating and navigation system that enables fighter pilots to detect, acquire, track and identify ground targets for highly accurate delivery of both conventional and precision-guided weapons.

This initiative is being conducted by the U.S. Navy's F/A-18 program office at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Lexington Park, Md.

LITENING AT features advanced image processing for target identification and coordinate generation, a 640 x 512 pixel forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor (first introduced in the LITENING ER variant), charge-coupled device television (CCD-TV) sensors, laser spot tracker/range finder, infrared laser marker; and an infrared laser designator.

Northrop Grumman and its teammate RAFAEL Missile Division will work with the Navy, Marine Corps and Boeing Hornet team to direct the LITENING AT for close air support and other combat missions. Previously, this government-industry team performed an initial integration and flight demonstration of Northrop Grumman's LITENING ER targeting system without changing the aircraft's current Advanced Targeting FLIR interfaces.

To avoid impacting the aircraft's operational software, all interfaced changes were accomplished in the LITENING's software. These changes were first tested in the F/A-18 system integration lab at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., followed by on-aircraft ground checks at the Navy's Patuxent River facility.

This was followed by actual test flights, where LITENING successfully tracked targets on a test range using both CCD-TV and FLIR sensors. Additionally, the LITENING laser designator was used to simulate deployment of precision munitions from extended ranges. A similar process will be followed for the current integration of LITENING AT on the F/A-18D prior to operational fielding with Marine Corps Hornets.

"Experience with LITENING-equipped AV-8B Harriers during Operation Iraqi Freedom has convinced the Marine Corps of the need to quickly enhance the precision attack capabilities of their Hornets," said Mike Lennon, vice president of Targeting and Surveillance Programs at Northrop Grumman.

"This quick turnaround effort will greatly improve the abilities of the F/A 18D to perform close air support and other missions. The Hornet will employ LITENING AT's combat-proven features such as day or night target location and identification, laser spot search/track and laser marker for coordinated operations with ground forces, and precision-target coordinate generation."

More than 120 LITENING AT pods or upgrade kits are on order for the Marine Corps and Air National Guard, with additional orders anticipated. LITENING AT's predecessors, LITENING II and LITENING ER, are operational on AV-8Bs flown by the Marine Corps and the Italian and Spanish navies, Air National Guard F-16s and A-10s, Air Force Reserve Command F-16s and B-52s, and Air Force F-15Es. To date, over 248 LITENING pods of all variants have been ordered by U.S. and allied forces.

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