Electronic Weapons: Growler Leaves the Ground

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September 25, 2006: The U.S. Navy has received it's first F-18 reconfigured as an electronic warfare (EW) aircraft. 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. The EA-18G "Growler" will replace the elderly EA-6B "Prowler." This first EA-18G will be joined by another later this year, and both will be used for testing, especially against radars and other electronic sensors, so that the production model specifications can be determined. The EA-18G won't enter service until 2009. It took 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-18G, at about $70 million each. 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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