A mark of relevance for any jet-powered combat aircraft today is the targeting pod. If radars act as the eyes for air-to-air missiles, targeting pods are the combat pilotÂs eyes for dropping bombs.
These self-contained, multisensor packages provide pilots a clear picture of a target area, no matter how fast or high they need to fly over it.
Israeli state-owned manufacturer
A lucrative partnership with
Targeting pod technology requirements, however, are changing. The
"The aircraft manufacturers realised that our system is the right choice, and they offer it as an integral part of the array of systems that come with the aircraft,Â Ash says. ÂThe only exception of course is when the client wants a different system or when he is from a country that an Israeli company cannot sell to."
The partners' current effort is on an request for information issued by the
Ash says this contract will include 300 pods, and a demonstration is expected in 2017.
ÂThe RFI set a standard that is far better from what the navy aircraft have today, and we aim to address this demand with Northrop," says Ash.
The current Litening G4 pod includes a full digital 1024Ã1024 pixel forward-looking infrared sensor and an improved TV sensor for daytime imaging, among other features.
The G4 has also been equipped with a datalink system, which enables the pod to receive a variety of data input from multiple sources, without further modifications to the pod or aircraft.
The sources were only ready to say that the new version will have better range and resolution. "It will also be capable of producing more useful data from each image," one of the sources says.
Meanwhile, sources in
Ash said this is currently not a realistic programme, but adds that "if and when it will be, Northrop will lead it of course".
"The system is modular so we can upgrade it relatively easily with sensors and electronics," a source says.
One of the upgrades comes in the shape of a colour CCD sensor on the Litening. Ash says as more air forces upgrade fighter cockpit screens to digital colour, the need for a colour CCD sensor is obvious. "We will offer the new sensor at the end of 2014," Ash adds.
Another in-demand upgrade would be a "black box" installed in empty space inside the current pod, which allows the unit to "talk" with other targeting pods and create a wider picture.
"This allows the pod to be part of a network-centric system," Ash says, adding that the feature would facilitate the use of the Litening for operational simulations.
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