UK Wants Litening Pod for typhoons

THE UK is looking to equip its Eurofighter Typhoon with the Rafael Litening III target designation pod, according to RAF sources. Moves to buy the Israeli-made pod are the result of the RAF’s emerging requirement to field multi-role capabilities on Typhoon as soon as possible.

«It’s not a done deal yet,» commented a senior RAF officer involved in the Typhoon project. «We want them to equip the final aircraft of our Tranche 1 Typhoon buy in the 2007 time scale. Then we will retro-fit the earlier aircraft so we don’t have a fleet within a fleet.”

The final decision on acquiring the pods is wrapped up in the on-going negotiations between the UK Ministry of Defence and the Eurofighter consortium over the second tranche contract for 89 Typhoons and the configuration of the aircraft’s enhanced operating capability.

The Enhanced Paveway II laser- and satellite-guided bomb will be the initial precision weapon used on the Typhoon, said the source. «We want a multi-role capability as soon as possible», he said.

It is now emerging that the RAF is looking to blur the distinction between air-to-air and air-to-ground role Typhoon units. «It’s the RAF’s aspiration that all squadrons will be multi-role,» he said. «This of course will be driven by the capability, with the aircraft initially only being capable of air-to-air and then getting multirole capability added later.»

The RAF is increasingly confident that its plans to stand up its first frontline Typhoon squadron at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, in mid-2006 are on track. Roll-out of the aircraft into the RAF’s wider fleet is now the subject of the service’s basing and organisation review, due to report next year. Some reports suggest that changes to plans to establish Typhoon main operating bases at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, and RAF Leuchars,

Scotland, may result in only one of the stations receiving the new aircraft. This would be most likely if the RAF scales down the size of its Typhoon buy or extends the period over which it purchases the aircraft.

The Litening III pod utilised a third generation FLIR, with a 640 x 480 digital detectors array, according to Rafael. It is also equipped with a target marker to allow designation of targets by day or night. The Litening III system has a dual-wavelength diode-pumped laser, compatible with training (eyesafe) and wartime operational modes. The system also employs electronic image stabilisation, to provide cleaner images of targets, acquired at long stand-off range. The RAF is also looking to buy Litening pods for its Tornado GR.4 aircraft.

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