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E/A-18G Growler Blk2

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The E/A-18G Growler electronic attack plane is about to get even more lethal
By: Valerie Insinna
08-May-2019

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Boeing’s E/A-18G Growler could be getting a package of upgrades in the mid-2020s that will give it a suite of new tools to electronically attack its foes.

Early this year, the Navy awarded Boeing initial funding to begin studying what kinds of technologies could be incorporated into a “Block 2 Growler,” said Jen Tebo, the company’s director of Super Hornet and Growler development.

“There were kind of rumblings of Growler Block 2 a year ago, and now it is a real thing,” Tebo told reporters on the sidelines of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space. “The Growler is the only platform of its type that is being produced today and so it makes sense that we would take something that was designed in the 90s and now enhance it to really be relevant for decades to come.”

The Navy is interested in retrofitting some — potentially all — of its E/A-18G fleet in the mid 2020s. The exact nature of those upgrades is still to be decided, but Tebo outlined a couple broad improvements.

First, Boeing plans to improve the Growler’s electronic attack sensors. For example, it is considering enhancements to Northrop Grumman’s ALQ-218 sensor system, which is used by the Growler for radar warning, electronic support measures and electronic intelligence, Tebo said.

It plans to add “adaptive and distributed processing” so that the E/A-18’s computers can quickly digest and pump out threat information. And because those computers will be processing more information and delivering it to the pilot and weapon system officer, it makes sense to improve interfaces so that data is easy to digest and the aircrew’s workload is minimized, she said.

“All of that is kind of accomplished through software defined radios that are enabled through a flexible and adaptable hardware architecture,” Tebo said.

“That not only gives the Navy step function capability now but sets up the infrastructure and the architecture to allow us to continually evolve capability, as the threats are dynamic out there and they change,” she said. “We don’t know what they are, and the life of the Growler is very very long.”

The Block 2 upgrades will also contain some capabilities that Boeing has already developed for the latest Block 3 iteration of the Super Hornet, such as low-drag conformal fuel tanks. The company is also assessing whether to boost the Growler’s 7,500 hour service life as part of the retrofit process.

Boeing is in the “wrap up phases” of its initial trade study and will brief the Navy and other stakeholders in industry on its result, she said.
“As we move later this year to the SFR — the system functional requirements phase — sometime in that you’ve got to nail down an architecture to get to the functional requirements of this and how we might achieve them.”

 

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USN issues RFI for Growler Block 2 upgrade
Gareth Jennings, London
29 May 2019

The US Navy (USN) has formally launched the Block 2 upgrade for the Boeing EA-18G electronic attack (EA) aircraft, with a request for information (RFI) issued in late May.

In a solicitation posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announced its intention to procure non-recurring engineering in support of EA-18G Growler Block 2, including Electronic Attack Unit (EAU) Surrogate Processor (ESP), AN/ALQ-218(V)4 RF receiver system, and
AN/ALQ-227(V)2 communication countermeasures set requirements for the USN.

The anticipated start date for the effort to retrofit all 161 of the USN's Growlers to the Block 2 configuration is 7 June 2020, with the upgrade itself being launched in fiscal year 2022 and aircraft being received from 2025. While not included in this initial solicitation, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fields 11 Growlers that are also likely to be upgraded (the service received 12 but one was lost to an accident in a ground accident in early 2018 and has yet to be replaced). Further to current customers, Boeing is also offering the aircraft to Finland and Germany.

Previously known as the Advanced Growler, the Growler Block 2 enhancement is based on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block 3 upgrade that is now in its early stages. Features common to both aircraft comprise 10×19 inch large-area display (LAD) cockpits (front and back) and conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), while the Growler will also receive enhancements to the systems listed in the RFI; the Next-Generation Jammer; EA sensor improvements; as well as networking and crew-interface improvements.


 

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Boeing kicks off design work for EA-18G upgrade
  • 09 MAY, 2019
  • SOURCE: FLIGHTGLOBAL.COM
  • BY: GARRETT REIM
  • WASHINGTON DC
Boeing has started design work to upgrade the US Navy’s (USN) fleet of EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.

The upgraded aircraft will be designated Growler Block II and include features already on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, such as the advanced cockpit system and conformal fuel tanks. It will include improved sensors and an upgraded electronic attack package.

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Boeing EA-18G Growler
Boeing

Earlier this year Boeing was working with the US Navy on initial architecture studies when when it received funding for the work. This helped it solidify requirements and move the Growler Block II design toward a system functional requirements review later in 2019.

“It’s about enhanced sensitivity through sensor modernization,” said Jennifer Tebo, Boeing’s director of development for the Super Hornet and Growler at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland. “A lot of these sensors were developed in the ’90s, frankly.

We’ve done some upgrades along the way, but it is time to do a step function enhancement on the Growler.”

She declines to say exactly what sensors would be added, citing military classification.

The Growler Block II will have an open systems architecture allowing faster software and hardware upgrades. That’s especially important to counter the USA’s adversaries, says Tebo.

“It sets the Growler up for continued and rapid evolution over time,” she says. “The threats are evolving quickly, rapidly, and we’ve got to keep pace.”
In particular, the Growler Block II would have the computer power necessary to manage Loyal Wingman unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) that are being considered by the US Department of Defense as a means to cheaply expand US military’s fleet of combat aircraft.

The USN hasn’t decided on the number of Growlers it wants to upgrade, though it could potentially be the entire 160 aircraft fleet, says Boeing. Australia’s Growler fleet could be eligible for upgrades too. Should the service go forward with the retrofits it would field the first examples of the enhanced electronic warfare aircraft in 2025.


 

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