August 5, 2006 Attack aircraft will do more than just shoot bullets and missiles in the future battlespace. With networked systems and information availability critical to a cohesive battle plan, electronic attack will be even more important than physical attack. The U.S. armed forces' newest airborne electronic attack aircraft, the EA-18G Growler had its public “coming out” ceremony yesterday, being presented to a crowd of more than 750 U.S. Navy customers and industry partners during a ceremony at Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems facilities in St. Louis. The EA-18 Growler combines the combat-proven F/A-18 Super Hornet with a state-of-the-art electronic warfare avionics suite and is being developed to replace the fleet's current carrier-based EA-6B Prowler. Capable of Mach 1.8, the Growler is packed with state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems to jam enemy electronic systems and provide electronic suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). The Growler is also capable electronic emissions detection, classification and monitoring. A derivative of the combat-proven, two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet, the EA-18G's highly flexible design enables warfighters to perform an array of airborne electronic attack (AEA) missions, operating from either the deck of an aircraft carrier or land-based fields. The EA-18G integrates the capabilities of the most advanced AEA system, designed and produced by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, which recently completed tests on the EA-6B, with the advanced weapons, sensors and communications systems found on the Super Hornet. The EA-18G is expected to enter initial operational capability in 2009.
U.S. Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations said at the ceremony, "It is clear that the demand for electronic warfare is not only going to remain high, but is going to grow," the admiral said during his remarks. "The Growler was designed and built to answer that call. Its speed, range and robust self-defense systems will serve as force multipliers for naval aviation and greatly strengthen the entire joint force."
The U.S. Navy selected the EA-18G to replace the current AEA platform, the EA-6B Prowler, which has been in service since 1971. Boeing received the EA-18G Systems Development and Demonstration phase contract on Dec. 29, 2003. The aircraft's first flight is planned for later this month, several weeks ahead of the originally scheduled date. EA-18G flight testing will take place at the Navy's Patuxent River, Md. and China Lake, Calif., test sites through 2008.
Boeing, acting as the weapon system integrator and prime contractor, leads the EA-18G Growler industry team. Northrop Grumman is the principal subcontractor and airborne electronic attack subsystem integrator. The Hornet Industry Team will divide EA-18G production across Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Electric and Raytheon manufacturing facilities. The System Design, Development and Demonstration program concludes with an Initial Operational Capability in 2009. Naval Air Systems Command PMA-265 is the U.S. Navy acquisition office for the EA-18G.
The EA-18G will have the capability to operate autonomously or as a major node in a network-centric operation and will provide accurate emitter targeting for employment of onboard suppression weapons such as the High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).