MILMAG Defence & Space 02/2020 »

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EA-18G Growler Block II

On the 8th of May, Boeing informed that modernization process of E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare (AEA) aircraft has started. The detailed concept of E/A-18G Growler Block II is to be ready by the end of 2019 and the first aircraft should enter service in 2025. Part of the modifications considered for the upgrade is based on F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III aircraft.

Proposed modernization would affect as many as 160 E/A-18G Growlers` from the US Navy and 12 from the Royal Australian Air Force / Photo: US Navy

Since the start of 2018, Boeing was consulting with the US Navy in regards to the modernization of E/A-18G Growler, which resulted in funds being allocated for a feasibility study of this project. Plans were confirmed at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland which took place between 6th and 8th of May 2019. There is no detailed information as to what obsolete electronic equipment would be replaced.

E/A-18G Growler Block II would be similar in construction to a 2-seater F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III aircraft / Graphic: Boeing

Available information confirms only, that the Growler Block II would have an open architecture of electronic system so future modifications would be possible. One can speculate that increased computing power would be installed in the aircraft, to lessen the workload of the plane`s crew. Onboard computers would also manage the Skyborg UAV`s, which would serve as a so-called loyal wingman. United States Department of Defense believes that such UAV`s would seriously increase the American airforces potential at a very reasonable cost. It`s worth mentioning, that Boeing presented their own Airpower Teaming System UAV, which was developed for the Loyal Wingman - Advanced Development Program.Potential modifications based on FA-18E/F Super Hornet Block III could include conformal fuel tanks (CFT) with 1588 liters of capacity. This could increase the aircraft`s range by 250 km. Service life would be increased to 10 000 hours (from 6000). IRST21 detection and tracking system,  Raytheon AN/APG-79 radiolocation station with AESA array, and  Harris AN/ALQ-214 IDECM system are also a possibility. New Growler will have its radar signature reduced by 10%.

US Navy hasn`t yet confirmed how many of current Growlers will undergo the modernization procedures but Boeing believes that it could affect all 160 serving aircraft. Mentioned Australian jets could be modernized as well, especially considering recent operational readiness achieved by RAAF`s Growlers. Twelve of Australian jets would be modernized, including one which replaced an aircraft lost in a crash.


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