15 years, the highly successful ‘LITENING pod’ collaboration between Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems Australia has come to end, as the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) prepares for the completion of service of its Classic Hornet fleet.

Mounted underneath the F/A-18A+ Hornet, the Litening pod is being used by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112, Marine Aircraft Group 41.(UA Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Joel A. Chaverri)

BAE Systems has been subcontracted to Northrop Grumman, the Original Equipment Manufacturer of the ‘LITENING’ pods used on the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets, since 2006.  During this time, the LITENING Pods have been used at RAAF base Williamtown (New South Wales), RAAF base Tindal (Northern Territory), plus many local and international deployments and operations. The completion of the LITENING Support contract is a result of the RAAF transitioning from the Classic Hornet to the 5th Generation, F-35 Air Vehicle. LITENING is an integrated targeting pod that mounts externally to the aircraft. It contains an electro-optical infrared sensor system for targeting and surveillance that enables aircrews to detect, acquire, identify and track targets at long ranges. It enables a wide range of missions, including precision targeting, close air support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and humanitarian assistance. The LITENING pods contain high resolution sensors and powerful processors that are at the heart of the capability.

In a successful demonstration of Australian Industry Capability and collaboration, BAE Systems has been able to significantly grow the workshop capability and the value provided to both Northrop Grumman and the RAAF over this time. The company started out as a ‘nil fault found’ screening facility, simply testing and sending faulty parts back to Northrop Grumman in the USA for repair. Recognising early on the opportunity to deliver more quickly, and efficiently, the BAE Systems LITENING Pod team proposed they could increase their capabilities and work scope and, in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, quickly evolved to an ‘Intermediate Level’ maintenance facility and were approved to carry out repairs to the LITENING pods from their own base in Williamtown. The benefits to the RAAF were clear – more LITENING pods were serviceable and available when and where they were needed on the Classic Hornet fleet. Importantly, this also saved on freight costs, shipping resources and turnaround time for Northrop Grumman. There have been many notable achievements during the 15 years of support, including the achievement of 100,000 ‘Elapsed Time Indicator’ (operational flying hours) for the LITENING Pod fleet in early 2021.

BAE Systems Aircraft Sustainment and Training Director Andrew Chapman, Director, said:  “This has been a great program that really demonstrates the importance and benefits that come from collaboration. It’s also a reflection of how we work with our partners across programs that we lead such as Hawk Lead In Fighter and sustainment of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. We are proud of the way that Defence industry has been able to work together delivering the best possible support Australia’s Defence Force.”


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