Electronic Weapons: July 22, 2005

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The U.S. Navy is retiring its 68 EA-6B electronic warfare planes over the next decade. These will be replaced, starting in 2008, by 57 EA-18G aircraft (a variant of F-18F Super Hornet.) The EA-18G will basically carry the same electronic warfare pods and equipment that the EA-6B used. There will be some changes, mainly to deal with the fact that the EA-6B had four people on board, to deal with the heavy workload encountered when you were trying to deal with enemy air defense and electronic warfare capabilities. The EA-18G will only have two people on board, so the guy in the back seat will be doing the work of three, or maybe 2 and a half people. The EA-18G has the advantage of being based on a high performance fighter, while the EA-6B is based on a light bomber. Thus the pilot of the EA-18G has more options in the air because of its greater speed and agility. The EA-18G will cost about $10 million more ($60 million) than the standard F-18F. The big question mark will be the ability of the new user software to enable one guy in the back seat to do all the work of three people in the EA-6B. In addition, the EA-18G will be making use of UAVs to help with the electronic warfare work. Finally, the American approach to airborne electronic warfare is undergoing a transformation, and the EA-18G is seen as a transitional aircraft, perhaps the last of the manned electronic warfare planes. The next generation may well be crewless UAVs.

 


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