Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems announced May 6 that it will supply 5th generation Litening-5 and RecceLite systems for Leonardo's M-346FA light combat aircraft. This is the first integration of 5th generation electro-optical (EO) pods in the jet.
The M-346FA is the multi-role combat variant of the most advanced jet trainer that has been designed for a wide range of training capabilities, long-term reliability and cost-effective operations. The FA variant is also able to operate very effectively as a multi-role tactical aircraft, capable of air-to-surface, air-to-air and tactical reconnaissance missions, Rafael said.
Integrated with Rafael's pods, the jet will now have combat-proven, stand-off capabilities using the Litening 5 multi-spectral airborne targeting pod. The Litening 5 pod is in use by 27 air forces and carried by over 25 platforms globally, according to the company.
Litening 5 delivers real-time, forward-looking infrared (FLIR+SWIR) and day HD color camera imagery. Its high-resolution sensors and effective EO/IR design ensure reliable operation at significant stand-off ranges. Litening 5 allows the operation of all types of air-to-surface smart weaponry, such as laser-guided, GPS-guided and EO/IR imaging-guided munition. Litening pods have logged over 2 million flight hours, with more than two-thirds in contingency operations worldwide, Rafael said.
With the RecceLite intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) system, the light-attack aircraft is said to be able to perform target search, using advanced AI, ATR (Automatic Target Recognition) at the interpretation ground station, and other smart algorithms 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, Rafael said.
RecceLite has been delivered to 13 customers worldwide and integrated onto various aircraft, including the F-16, F-18, Jaguar, AMX, Tornado, Typhoon, Gripen, Heron TP, Reaper and others. It is used by air forces in Europe, the Far East and South America.
"This new cooperation with Leonardo opens new markets to integrate our advanced systems to additional light, cost-effective platforms, based on our vast experience and integration legacy in all domains," said Guy Oren, VP and head of Rafael's Electro-Optical Systems Directorate.
Emanuele Merlo, SVP Trainers for Leonardo’s Aircraft Division, said "We see a growing number of nations that have requirements for trainers that are also able to perform close-air support missions, and the addition of Rafael's globally combat-proven 5th gen. targeting and ISR pods is a significant, force-multiplying enhancement to our platform."