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Navy Super Hornets Flew Litening Pod for the First Time, Targets Never Looked So Colorful

The F/A-18 Super Hornet, unlike pretty much all other airplanes currently in America’s arsenal, is not that old. First flown back in 1995, it still is in need of upgrades though, given the rapid pace at which technology has evolved since.
U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet with Litening targeting pod 10 photos
F/A-18 Super Hornet taking off from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)F/A-18 Super Hornet landing on USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)F/A-18 Super Hornet Block IIIF/A-18 Super Hornet Block IIIF/A-18 Super HornetF/A-18 Super HornetF/A-18 Super HornetF/A-18 Super HornetF/A-18 Super Hornet
Knowing that, America, and more specifically the U.S. Navy, who’s flying the plane as the replacement of the Top Gun-famous F-14 Tomcat, is in the process of upgrading the airborne weapons platform, and one of the main focuses for the changes is the legacy targeting pod.

Back in May of last year, Northrop Grumman announced it has just the right thing for that, namely something called Litening. It started being fitted on Navy Hornets back in April this year, and last week we were informed of the hardware being successfully flown on a Navy military plane for the first time.

According to the defense contractor, during the flight “pilots executed maneuvers and operations representative of combat missions, including ground moving target tracking, air-to-air tracking and target designation.”

The training laser mode that allows the pod to be used for realistic training with combat controllers on the ground was also used in the run, and pilots managed to perform all the assigned tasks without advance training.

Unlike traditional targeting pods, which generally capture images in infrared, the Litening can also capture color images of the targets, making pilots more confident that what they’re about to blow up is indeed what actually needs to be blown up.

“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,”
said in a statement James Conroy, vice president, navigation, targeting and survivability, Northrop Grumman.

The system is already being used on planes by the Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Air National Guard.

Editor's note: Gallery shows other Navy Super Hornets.

press release

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