Navy upgrades Growler Electronic Attack
- By Katherine Owens
- Mar 19, 2017
Upgrades to the EA-18G aircraft’s airborne electronic attack (AEA) system will take the Navy’s implementation of electronic warfare to the next level with improved radar jamming, target location and destruction, and air defense suppression capabilities.
The planned upgrades will be carried out through a contract modification of $91,034,997 awarded to Northrop Grumman for the design and installation of improved AEA software configurations and the corresponding hardware for the Boeing’s EA-18G aircraft electronic warfare platform.
The EA-18G aircraft, known as the Growler, is a modified version of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, and Boeing reports that it is the only platform for Northrop Grumman’s AEA and countermeasures technology currently in production that can serve in high-threat zones.
Operationally, the EA-18G is often one of the first aircraft deployed in conflict, because its electronic signal jamming capabilities and ability to suppress enemy air can reduce the threat of the opponent’s ground-to-air defenses, providing cover for strike and other fighter aircraft when they penetrate enemy airspace. In order to do this, the EA-18G carries multi-mode radar detection, suppression, and countermeasure equipment, such as the multiple AN/ALQ-99 radar jamming pods on its wing tips and tail, and the AN/ALQ-218(V)2 receiver and a communications countermeasure system that is installed in its gun bay.
According to NAVAIR, the EA-18G is also unique in its ability to defend itself from threats, and to locate and prosecute targets, which it does using Advanced Electronically Scanned Array radar and air-to-air missiles.
The EA-18G has been carrying out combat missions since March 2011 when it participated in its first mission as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn, NAVAIR reported. Prior to this most recent contract modification, the EA-18G Northrop Grumman AEA system was last updated in 2015, when, according to a Boeing press release, the system was enhanced to be able to conduct electronic surveillance over greater areas and more efficiently share electronic intelligence and reconnaissance data with other platforms.
The electronic attack focus of the EA-18G makes it one of the key implementers of electronic warfare for the military as a whole. This type of warfare involves the disruption of an opponent’s electronic systems, primarily radar and communication, and is practiced by all service branches in some form. Navy publications report that the EA-18G is one of few aircraft that operate as joint service platforms for conducting electronic warfare.
Under the new contract modification, the software and hardware AEA requirement upgrades are expected to be fully implemented by July 2019. The $91,034,997 modification is now being jointly funded by the U.S. Navy and the Australian government under the Foreign Military Sales program, with the U.S. Navy providing the majority of the money from FY17 Navy Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds. The original contract specifies indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity and was first awarded to Northrop Grumman in 2014.
Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems