The U.S. Navy completed an Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range (AARGM-ER) captive carry flight on an F/A-18 Super Hornet April 22 at Patuxent River in support of the first live fire event this spring.
This flight marked the first time the AARGM-ER weapon demonstrated it could communicate with the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet aircraft. The Separation Test Vehicle (STV) used its hardware and software to facilitate the controlled free flight.
«Data collected from this testing will support expansion of flight testing with AARGM-ER to the full performance envelope of F/A-18 Super Hornet», said Captain Mitch Commerford, program manager for Direct and Time Sensitive Strike program office (PMA-242). «This flight represents a significant step in the AARGM-ER engineering and manufacturing development phase».
During the test, the F/A-18 Super Hornet conducted a series of aerial maneuvers in order to evaluate compatibility of the AARGM-ER with the F/A-18 Super Hornet. The test points completed during this flight test event substantiated F/A-18 Super Hornet carriage compatibility.
AARGM-ER is being integrated on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, and will be compatible for integration of the F-35 Lightning II. By leveraging the U.S. Navy’s AARGM program that’s in Full Rate Production, the AARGM-ER with a new rocket motor and warhead will provide advanced capability to detect and engage enemy air defense systems.
The F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) commenced the five-year Growler Capability Modification (GCM) program at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Washington. This kicks off the first major effort to upgrade the capabilities of the EA-18G Growler in the history of the platform.
«As the first major upgrade to the platform since its inception, the GCM will allow the Growler community to maintain the advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum and lay the basis for future upgrades to keep the aircraft relevant into 2040», said Commander Chris Gierhart, PMA-265 Growler Systems Integration lead.
The EA-18G Growler, a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, will receive multiple modifications, which support the upcoming fleet release of the Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) pod (AN/ALQ-249(V) 1). These modifications focus on updating the jets’ Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) and mission systems, enabling future capability growth for the U.S. Navy’s 160 EA-18Gs that serve a critical role in jamming radar and communications signals of threat forces, hindering their ability to detect and track U.S. and allied military forces. GCM will integrate advanced datalinks and the NGJ-MB pod, providing a considerable increase in electronic attack capability over the Growler’s current AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming Systems pod, which has been in use since the 1970s.
«These modifications provide the warfighter a significant leap in capability across the electromagnetic spectrum, improving combat support to front-line strike fighters of U.S. joint and allied forces», said Gierhart.
GCM is comprised of multiple Engineering Change Proposals across several of the EA-18G aircraft systems. The very first EA-18G production aircraft delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2007 was the first aircraft inducted for GCM.
No major aircraft modification line previously existed at NAS Whidbey Island, the EA-18G Growler fleet homeport. The PMA-265 team took on the challenge of standing up the operational GCM line, on-site. In addition to coordinating with NAS Whidbey Island, PMA-265 also worked closely with AEA Systems Program Office (PMA-234), Commander Electronic Attack Wing Pacific, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Indiana, Fleet Readiness Center Northwest, and industry partner The Boeing Company, to ensure overall cost, schedule and performance metrics are met.
«The team’s diligence and extensive coordination resulted in a cross-organizational solution that brought in the required support equipment, facility upgrades and workforce, all during the restrictions and protocols associated with the COVID-19 pandemic», said Captain Stephen May, PMA-265 EA-18G Growler deputy program manager.
«We’re excited to get this effort underway to ensure the latest technologies are incorporated into the EA-18G Growler, giving our warfighter the tools needed to be successful in every mission».
Boeing and the U.S. Navy successfully flew two autonomously controlled EA-18G Growlers at Naval Air Station Patuxent River as Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) using a third Growler as a mission controller for the other two.
The flights, conducted during the U.S. Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual FLeet EXperiment (FLEX) exercises, proved the effectiveness of technology allowing F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers to perform combat missions with unmanned systems.
«This demonstration allows Boeing and the Navy the opportunity to analyze the data collected and decide where to make investments in future technologies», said Tom Brandt, Boeing Manned-UnManned Teaming demonstration lead. «It could provide synergy with other U.S. Navy unmanned systems in development across the spectrum and in other services».
Over the course of four flights, 21 demonstration missions were completed.
«This technology allows the Navy to extend the reach of sensors while keeping manned aircraft out of harm’s way», Brandt said. «It’s a force multiplier that enables a single aircrew to control multiple aircraft without greatly increasing workload. It has the potential to increase survivability as well as situational awareness».
The U.S. Navy has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a $35.1 million, 20-month contract to demonstrate existing technologies for the low-band frequency jammer, the second increment of the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) program.
Northrop Grumman has been the Navy’s airborne electronic attack integrator for more than 50 years. In addition to its work on NGJ Low Band (NGJ-LB), the company continues to support the fleet with advanced electronic attack capabilities.
The NGJ system will augment, and ultimately replace the EA-18G Growler aircraft’s aging ALQ-99 tactical jammer with advanced airborne electronic attack capabilities for defeating increasingly advanced and capable threats. Developed in three frequency-focused increments – high-band, mid-band and low-band – NGJ will be capable of jamming multiple radar signals at the same time, including surveillance and air-defense radars.
The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) selected Northrop Grumman for the NGJ-LB Demonstration of Existing Technology phase. The contract was awarded October 25.
Northrop Grumman’s offer was selected based on technical merit and potential maturity for accomplishing the low-band mission. The company’s solution also provides rapid operational capability to the fleet.
«Northrop Grumman will deliver a mature, low-risk and exceedingly capable solution for Next Generation Jammer Low Band that outpaces evolving threats and enables the Navy’s speed-to-fleet path», said Thomas Jones, vice president and general manager, airborne Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems, Northrop Grumman.
«Our NGJ-LB pod provides multi-mission capability for electromagnetic maneuver warfare. We stand ready to demonstrate advancements in this mission area and deliver ahead of schedule».
Work primarily will be performed in Linthicum, Maryland, and Bethpage and Amityville, New York.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, together with Air Vice Marshal Steven Roberton, Air Commander Australia, on 07 July welcomed the full fleet of EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft to RAAF Base Amberley.
Since the first two Growlers arrived in Australia in February 2017, the fleet has grown to the full twelve aircraft.
Minister Payne said the arrival of the Growler provides a potent and technologically advanced new capability for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
«We are the only country outside the United States operating the EA-18G Growler and the full fleet arrival represents a significant leap forward in joint electronic warfare capability», Minister Payne said. «This is an amazing achievement for the ADF. These aircraft are able to support the full spectrum of Defence missions, including operations with coalition partners. The EA-18G Growlers will work with Army and Navy to deliver a networked joint force able to manoeuvre and fight in the electromagnetic spectrum. The arrival affirms the Government’s commitment to maintain our capability edge and prepare for the more complex and high-tech conflicts of the future».
Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies said he was extremely proud of all the personnel who have worked on this project both in Australia and overseas.
«The delivery of this capability shows what our Defence Force members are capable of alongside our U.S. counterparts», Air Marshal Davies said. «The U.S. Navy has been very generous in their training of our aircrew and maintenance teams, and we have cemented our reputation as credible coalition partners. Australian Growlers have already conducted successful weapon firings and integration flights with RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets and U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers as part of Operational Test and Evaluation. We have also had the graduation of the first Operational Transition course. Through our partnership with the U.S. Navy we are already planning to keep Growler at the forefront of electronic attack capability throughout the life of the aircraft. I wish to acknowledge the commitment of RAAF Base Amberley, the Estate & Industry Group and the 6 Squadron families who have generated the home of this exciting new aircraft».
The Growler is based on the F/A-18F Super Hornet airframe and fitted with additional avionics, enhanced radio frequency receivers, an improved communications suite and radio-frequency jamming pods that enable it to jam enemy systems. It will provide a complementary capability to the F/A-18F Super Hornet and the F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, today welcomed the first EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force. Flying into the Australian International Airshow at Avalon from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in the United States, the Growlers are a potent and technologically advanced new capability for the Australian Defence Force.
Minister Payne said the Growler was a true force-multiplier. «The Growler can disrupt military electronic systems, such as radars, to protect personnel and improve situational awareness», Minister Payne said. «Australia is the only country outside the United States flying the EA-18G Growler and its arrival is a significant leap forward in Australia’s joint electronic warfare capability and introduces a dedicated electronic attack option», Minister Payne said.
Minister Payne today also announced that Australia will partner with the United States to develop a next-generation radar and radio jammer for the Growler. «This is a $250 million investment by the Turnbull Government that will future proof the Growler’s capability», Minister Payne said. «As this is a rapidly evolving area we will work in partnership with the United States Navy to develop the next generation jamming capability, which will ensure that these aircraft remain at the technological forefront throughout their service life».
The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, said the Growler was a vital part of Air Force’s evolution to a future fifth-generation Air Force. «The EA-18G Growler will operate as part of our networked and integrated force, capable of sharing electronic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data with other aircraft, as well as with the Army and Navy. The Growler is powerful and flexible. It can undertake a range of non-kinetic tasks, ranging from jamming, to blocking radar displays, and suppressing an adversary’s air defence system», Air Marshal Davies said.
Australia has purchased 12 EA-18G Growlers, which will be delivered to RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland by the middle of 2017.
The U.S. Navy and Boeing recently demonstrated new targeting technologies that greatly enhance aircrew safety and effectiveness through the rapid integration and distribution of target information across multiple aircraft. Utilizing an advanced targeting processor, an open architecture, high-bandwidth data link, and a Windows-based tablet integrated with the mission system, the demonstration proved that Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft can detect targets over longer distances and share information more rapidly than ever before.
«This enhanced targeting capability provides our aircrews with a significant advantage, especially in an increasingly dense threat environment where longer-range targeting is critical to the fight», said Captain David Kindley, U.S. Navy F/A-18 and EA-18G program manager.
Naval aviation history was made during the Navy fleet experimentation campaign when data was integrated from multiple Growlers operating with an E-2 Hawkeye aircraft, utilizing the new high-bandwidth data link and increasing the speed and accuracy of target locating.
Use of the tablet device integrated with the aircraft mission system was another first for a Navy platform. That technology allowed aircrews to more easily access data and communicate with crews in other aircraft.
Existing Growlers will be retrofitted with the upgrades while the technology will be included as a standard offering on all new aircraft currently in production.
«The complexity of global threat environments continues to evolve», said Dan Gillian, Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18G programs vice president. «This long-range targeting technology is essential as we advance electronic attack capabilities for the conflicts of today and tomorrow».
The EA-18G Growler is derived from the combat-proven F/A-18F Super Hornet and is the United States’ newest and most advanced airborne electronic attack platform, providing electronic Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) data to other aircraft. The Growler has been deployed since 2010 supporting U.S. and allied forces.
EA-18G Growler Quick Facts
Provides critical electronic Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) data to other joint force aircraft.
Brings fighter aircraft speed and maneuverability to an electronic attack aircraft.
The ability to self-protect against adversarial aircraft using its AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM).
Enhanced radar image resolution, targeting and tracking range through its APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system.
Uninterrupted radio communications in a heavily jammed environment using its Interference Cancellation System.
Unequaled aircrew situational awareness and head-up control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors using its Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System.
The ability to locate, record, play back and digitally jam enemy communications over a broad frequency range using its ALQ-227 Communications Countermeasures Set.
Provides advanced survivability and electronic protection for ground, air and maritime combat forces.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) received on July 30 its first EA-18G Growler. Prime contractor Boeing and the U.S Navy formally presented the aircraft to the RAAF at a ceremony in St. Louis in the United States. Former Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown (ret’d), who represented the RAAF at the ceremony, confirmed that Australia would be the first nation outside the United States to fly the airborne electronic attack platform.
«The Growlers will complement our existing and future air combat capability, and ours will be a much more lethal force with this advanced technology», Air Marshal Brown said. «In many respects, it’s the final piece of the air power jigsaw puzzle for the RAAF, and my prediction is it will have one of the biggest strategic effects for the Australian Defence Force since the introduction of the F-111 in the 1970s».
A derivative of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler is the only aircraft in production providing tactical jamming and electronic protection. The Growler will enhance Air Force’s current fleet of 24 Super Hornets and future fleet of F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), and advances «Plan Jericho», the initiative to transform the Air Force into an integrated, networked force able to deliver air power in all operating environments. Growler will also be a key enabler for both maritime and land forces.
The first aircraft to be delivered, A46-301, made its first flight on July 13 but was formally presented in front of RAAF and U.S. Navy representatives, Boeing employees and the Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon. «The aircraft will now fly to Naval Air Station China Lake, California, for flight testing and then Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington State, where RAAF operators will continue training with U.S. Navy aircrew to gain expertise in the highly technical electronic warfare mission», Air Marshal Brown said.
The second RAAF Growler has also made its first flight, while the following 10 aircraft are in various stages of assembly at Boeing’s St. Louis plant. On current plans, all 12 aircraft will arrive in Australia by the end of 2017.