A recent Taliban raid on a U.S. Marine Corps airbase in Afghanistan put eight AV-8 vertical take-off jets out of action. While the AV-8 is usually employed for ground attack, some of those in Afghanistan were also carrying out electronic warfare (EW). This was done using the new Tiger II EW pod to monitor low power communications (cell phones and walkie talkies) and jam devices used for roadside bombs. A novel feature of the Tiger II is that it can be operated from the ground, freeing the AV-8 pilot to concentrate in flying and reporting what he sees to the pod operator.
For years the marines knew they needed a new electronic warfare pod, one they could use on their Harrier vertical-takeoff jets, helicopters, and Shadow UAVs for operations in Afghanistan and similar operations. There was nothing available and developing a new one, they were told, would cost billions and take years. So the marines designed and developed their own. By cutting out all the “might happen” stuff and concentrating on what the marines needed right now, the developers were able to get the pod into action earlier this year.
Development cost $20 million and took four years. Purchase price for each pod is $600,000. The Intrepid Tiger II communications intelligence and jamming pod weighs 137 kg (300 pounds) and is about the same size as an anti-radiation missile. For the Shadow UAV, the pod components will be reconfigured to fit inside the UAV.
The AV-8 squadron was put out of action by losing eight of its ten AV-8s and was returned to the United States. A new AV-8 unit is on the way but until it arrives there will be less coverage by Tiger II pods.