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Arie Egozi

Rafael Advanced Defence Systems has announced that it has been awarded a contract to supply 5th generation LITENING and RecceLite airborne electro-optical systems for installation on a combat platform operated by an undisclosed air force. Integrated with Rafael’s pods, the jet will now have combat-proven, stand-off capabilities using the LITENING 5 multi-spectral airborne targeting pod. This, and earlier models, is in use with 27 air forces and carried by over 25 platforms globally, including F-16, F-15, AV8B, F-18, F-4, F-5, A-10, B-52, JAGUAR, LCA, AMX, Mirage 2000, TORNADO, TYPHOON, MiG21, MiG27, M346, KC390, GRIPEN, Sukhoi 27 & 30, among others. LITENING pods have logged over 2 million flight hours, with more than two-thirds in contingency operations worldwide.

The systems

LITENING 5 delivers real-time, forward-looking infrared (FLIR+SWIR) and day HD colour camera imagery while its high-resolution sensors and effective EO/IR design ensures reliable operation at significant stand-off ranges. LITENING 5 also allows the operation of all types of air-to-surface smart weaponry, such as laser, GPS and EO/IR imaging-guided munitions while the continuous upgrade of the Rafael LITENING 5 targeting pod has resulted in adding a SAR radar to this bestselling pod.

Additionally, with the RecceLite ISR system, the attack aircraft will be able to perform target search, using advanced tools and other smart algorithms at the interpretation ground station, for efficient detection, tracking and sensor-to-shooter closure. Using its advanced ISR, image processing, and artificial intelligence, the system achieves optimal data-exploitation at the ground station of intelligence data relayed in real-time and mission execution in near-real-time. RecceLite has been delivered to 13 customers world-wide and integrated onto various aircraft, including the F-16, F-18, JAGUAR, AMX, TORNADO, TYPHOON, GRIPEN, M-346 and others. It is used by air forces in Europe, the Far East and South America.

New versions

The Israeli company has unveiled the a new version of LITENING 5 and claims that it is unique and offers unprecedented capabilities including the addition of Synthetic Appature Radar. With this, the LITENING 5 is an all-weather targeting pod and enables fighter aircraft to extend target detection and recognition beyond 100 km, allowing them to avoid missile-defended areas. Relying on visual and various infrared sensors, the pod provides true multi spectral capability and advanced image processing that improves performance in marginal visibility conditions and reduces operator workload with process automation in target detection and tracking. In addition to its new stand-off performance, LITENING 5 improves stand-in capability, particularly against complex, low-signature adversary equipment.

Customers understand this need for operational flexibility as many of today’s conflicts are fought below the threshold of full-scale war, where attacks are launched from afar and avoid crossing international borders. Rafael therefore say the LITENING 5 is not only a targeting pod but an Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) system that is now operational on many types of fighter aircraft, including the TYPHOON and GRIPEN.


The RecceLite is a derivative of Rafael’s LITENING navigation and targeting pod, which is used by the Israeli Air Force and some foreign air forces worldwide.  The new gimbaled version can be controlled from the ground to focus on “areas of interest” and in case of a data link failure, the system will send the images to the ground station immediately after the connection is re-established. The new version also has improved sensors resulting in longer range and better resolution. What previously required a cumbersome oblique photography pod system is now performed by the RecceLite.

The stand-off capability is crucial when armed forces are dealing with threats that evolve in an area across a certain border so an aircraft carrying the RecceLite can fly along this border while looking sideways at long distances. In Air Force jargon this is called “Gate Keeping” where the “doorman” is up in the skies but knows exactly who is near the imaginary gate. According to a Rafael source, the new upgraded version of this system, which can be also carried by large Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) like the PREDATOR B or the HERON TP, can look at a number of targets simultaneously and in ranges of up to a 100 km.