The RAAF commenced flight trials in late January of one of its 12 Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules transports fitted with a Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-28(V) Litening AT targeting pod.
With the Litening pods becoming available as the RAAF draws down its fleet of F/A-18A/B classic Hornets, the option to equip with the C-130J with the advanced sensor was announced last year. The pod is mounted on a pylon outboard of the engines on the port wing, and has a wide field of regard forward, behind and on both sides of the aircraft. The pod can record video in day and night-time, and includes a forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera.
“Historically, RAAF Hercules crews have relied on radio, instruments and their own senses to understand the environment,” Commander Air Mobility Group (AMG) AIRCDRE Carl Newman said in a statement. “This trial will examine how the Litening pod can improve crew situational awareness to mitigate mission risks.
“For example, the Litening pod could help us maintain contact with survivors during search and rescue operations, or examine conditions at an airfield or drop zone prior to delivering cargo or personnel.
“Sharing this information would have applications during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions,” he added. “A Hercules could deliver relief cargo following a cyclone, then immediately take off and record video showing the extent of storm damage to local communities and infrastructure.”
The integration of the Litening pod with the aircraft was designed and performed by C-130J sustainment contractor Airbus Australia Pacific at the C-130J’s home base of RAAF Richmond near Sydney with support from Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. The test aircraft is also the first C-130J to receive communications and other enhancements under the RAAF’s Plan Jericho.
The USAF has also equipped a limited amount of its C-130s flown by Air National Guard units with the Litening pod.