(Credit: Northrop Grumman)

U.S. Air Force Prepares to Unleash ‘LITENING’ with Its New Large Aperture Targeting Pod

The U.S. Air Force is gearing up to equip a new targeting pod that will provide its aircraft with enhanced electro-optical and infrared sensing and processing abilities.

Dubbed the LITENING Large Aperture (LA) targeting pod, the Northrup Grumman-designed unit is an electro-optical infrared pod designed for targeting and surveillance under a range of conditions. The technology allows aircrews to detect the movement of aircraft and objects and identify and track them over long distances.

The impressive LITENING LA targeting pod will not only allow enhanced detection, acquisition, and identification at long range but also will improve the Air Force’s capabilities in precision targeting, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, as well as enabling air support and assistance across a range of different mission conditions.

The new LITENING LA pod builds off of Northrup Grumman’s existing arsenal of similar technologies, the company said in a statement this week.

“Just as the first LITENING targeting pod transformed close air support more than 20 years ago, LA’s passive targeting capabilities have the potential to change the way pilots approach combat in high-intensity conflicts,” said James Conroy, Northrup Grumman’s vice president of electronic warfare and targeting.

Equipped with high-resolution digital color video and infrared sensors, the new LITENING pod also features enhanced datalink capabilities and a range of other advanced features.

Among the new pod’s key assets are its long-range capabilities, which help to facilitate identification and engagement by USAF fighter craft with unprecedented precision. Additionally, the latest iteration of LITENING will also incorporate newly updated processing capabilities, which will accelerate the system’s imaging capabilities while also facilitating scalability for use with artificial intelligence (AI).

Currently, the United States military is working to incorporate AI into its operations in a variety of ways while ensuring that its use is managed responsibly by implementing auditable, well-defined uses of the technology, in addition to mandating testing and evaluation that are aimed at preemptively detecting any unintended behaviors that could manifest as machine intelligence progresses.

In addition to its AI-readiness, the new LITENING LA configuration features the same form factor as its predecessors, which allows the new system to be fitted to aircraft and seamlessly integrated with no additional modifications necessary.

LIGHTENING LA will soon be implemented throughout the Air Force’s aircraft arsenal, replacing earlier versions it has employed since first adopting the technology in 1999.

Conroy says his company’s technology continues its tradition of delivering the best tracking and targeting capabilities to the USAF.

“We are widening the aperture on how electro-optical/infrared targeting can contribute to mission success,” Conroy said, “with a more advanced and powerful pod.”

Additional information on the new LITENING LA targeting pod and its capabilities can be found at Northrup Grumman’s website.

Micah Hanks is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief. He can be reached by email at Follow his work at and on X: @MicahHanks.