Warplanes: Got Growlers

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May 22, 2007: The U.S. Navy has ordered its first eighteen EA-18G electronic warfare (EW) aircraft, for about $73 million each. The navy received its first F-18F reconfigured as an electronic warfare (EW) aircraft last Fall. This is a specialized warplane that uses electronic detectors and jammers, plus missiles than home in on radars, to clear the way through enemy air defenses for bombers. Officially known as the EA-18G "Growler", they will replace the elderly EA-6B "Prowler." The EA-18G won't enter service until 2009. It will take about two years to build the first EA-18G, which is based on the two seat version of the F-18F.

Five years ago, the navy mounted some EW pods on an F-18F and found that the aircraft performed well in that configuration. The navy plans to buy over 50 EA-18Gs. The elderly EA-6Bs are not expected to last much beyond 2015 (they entered service in 1971). The 29 ton EA-18G will carry up to five electronic warfare pods, plus two AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and two anti-radiation (HARM) missiles. It will probably be the last manned aircraft to handle the EW job. UAVs are becoming more capable, and will eventually take over this dangerous task.

 


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