The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a $71.5m full-rate production contract to Northrop Grumman for Laser Infrared Targeting and Navigating (LITENING) SE advanced targeting pods and spares.

The order is part of USAF’s advanced targeting pod-sensor enhancement (ATP-SE) programme.

Northrop Grumman electro-optical/infrared business unit vice president Jim Mocarski said the company will provide advanced targeting pods with the modern advancements in sensor, laser imaging and data link technology that give warfighters the advantage when executing their missions.

The LITENING SE is a pylon-mounted targeting pod designed to enable aircrew deliver both conventional and precision-guided weapons by providing them with infrared and visible imagery of both ground and airborne targets.

Developed to reduce pilot workload, the pod is equipped with a plug-and-play (PnP) III digital two-way and data link Line Replacable Unit (LRU) and offers the latest advancements in sensor, laser imaging and data link technology.

Based on Northrop’s G4 production targeting pod configuration, LITENING SE features technologies such as full 1Kx1K Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) and charge-coupled device sensors as well as short wave infrared sensors, colour symbols, tracker improvement, enhanced zoom, and two-way multi-band data link.

The pod provides laser ranging and designation in support of weapon delivery, navigational functions, and recording and data-linking of generated imagery and data, which enable the pilot to detect, acquire, auto-track and identify targets from greater stand-off ranges.

USAF’s F-16 Block 40/50 aircraft and Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve F-16 Blocks 25/30/32, and A-10C Thunderbolt aircraft have already flight-tested the pods.