The United States Navy completed the first test flights on its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter using Northrop Grumman’s Litening targeting pod. 

The trials included several combat exercises, including ground moving target tracking, air-to-air tracking, and target designation, the manufacturer reported on September 7, 2022. 

The AN/AAQ-28 Litening pod, conjointly designed by the US manufacturer Northrop Grumman and the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is a precision targeting designation equipment capable of acquiring and tracking targets at long ranges, thanks to a high-resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor. 

“This first flight demonstrated Litening’s ability to rapidly add modern, upgradeable mission capabilities to the Super Hornet,” said James Conroy, vice president of the navigation, targeting and survivability unit at Northrop Grumman. “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.” 

The Litening pod will eventually replace the Raytheon AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR pods on the US Navy’s F/A-18 fleet. It is already in operation with the Marine Corps, Air Force, Air National Guard.  

Different Litening variants are currently in service with the US Marine Corps, Air Force, Air National Guard, and other international air forces. 

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A Litening III targeting pod was destroyed after falling from an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon during a test.