Flight trials have started for a Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules transport aircraft equipped with a Northrop Grumman Litening targeting pod.

Mounted on a pylon underneath the wing of the Hercules, the AN/AAQ-28(V) Litening pod is capable of recording video in day and night-time conditions, and includes a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera.

Air Commodore Carl Newman, Commander Air Mobility Group, said the trials would examine the Litening pod’s utility for different Hercules missions.

“Historically, RAAF Hercules crews have relied on radio, instruments and their own senses to understand the environment,” Air Commodore Newman said in a news release.

“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.”

It is understood that the trial will also pair the Litening pod with a satellite communications antenna on the Hercules, which is expected to allow high-definition video to be shared with ground-based units or a headquarters.

According to the company:

“The Northrop Grumman LITENING Advanced Targeting System, now in its fourth generation, gives aircrews superior situational awareness and targeting capabilities for strike and ISR missions. Technologies include digital, high definition video, 1K forward-looking infrared and charge-coupled device sensors, laser imaging sensors and advanced data links. These advances deliver more accurate target identification and location at longer ranges than previous targeting pod systems, while also reducing pilot workload.”

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The Litening pods were originally acquired by the RAAF as a targeting sensor for the F/A-18A/B Hornet, however, its targeting function has been disabled when fitted to the C-130J Super Hercules.

So no defacto gun-ship capability.




Instead, the RAAF are watching the Italians rollout the MC-27J Praetorian version of the C-27J Spartan, with it roll-in/roll-out Bushmaster gun pallet.
If the RAAF are ever to consider a gun-ship, modifying 1 or 2 of its Spartans into Praetorians would be the more likely route.


As much as I like the Spartan concept, I really like what the USMC are doing with their C130s with the Harvest Hawk program. It’s not quite a Spectre, but has a little more flexible.




Thanks for sharing. Interesting to read about the historical move away from and then back to guns over missiles.


I can’t help thinking the UK could do with a small number of modified transport that can operate in a gunship mode. They would be able to be on station much longer than an Apache and out range most weapons used by insurgency warfare, which I suspect will be the main use for the special forces for quiet some time to come.