The modifications are focused on updating the jets’ structural and mission systems architecture, enabling future capability growth for the Navy’s 160 EA-18G Growler aircraft.
The first production EA-18G aircraft delivered in 2007 is the first Growler to receive several capabilities common with the F/A-18F Super Hornet Block III upgrades.
Boeing in fact has started a five-year modification program named Growler Capability Modification (GCM) for the US Navy’s EA-18G fleet with the induction of the first jet at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
The modifications are focused on updating the jets’ structural and mission systems architecture, enabling future capability growth for the Navy’s 160 Growler aircraft. Growlers serve a critical role in jamming radar and communications signals of threat forces, disabling their ability to detect and track US and allied military forces.
“We’re excited to have the Growler industry team here working on capabilities that will bring the fleet enhanced electronic surveillance, enhanced data link and the ability to carry the Next Generation Jammer pod,” said Capt. Chris “Needles” Bahner, commander, Electronic Attack Wing, US Pacific Fleet, in the company news release. “We look forward to being a cooperative partner with PMA-265 and PMA-234 at Naval Air Systems Command and the Growler industry team on this exciting work.”
Following contract awards in October 2020 and February 2021 for materials and labor, the modification work includes various upgrades for Growler mission systems. The aircraft’s ALQ-218 receiver system will receive the Airborne Electronic Attack System Enhancements modification, enabling the Growler to operate in increasingly complex electromagnetic environments.
Additional modifications will expand the Growler’s information pipeline for more rapid and secure data transfer to other aircraft and platforms as well as substantially improve the speed of data processing. 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). 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.
“As the world’s premier electronic attack platform, we’re starting this program for the EA-18G Growler in solid partnership with the Navy,” said Mark Sears, Boeing vice president of Fighters & Strike Product Support. “These modifications will position it to meet the threats of today and those in the future.”
The program schedule forecasts that all Navy Growlers will be modified in five years. Full rate modification is expected to start in June 2021.
Photo credit: Boeing and Mr. Marv Lynchard / U.S. Air Force