Boeing plans to market an EA-18G "Growler Lite" tailored for an "electronic awareness" role rather than attack.
The manufacturer believes that offering what it internally refers to as the Growler Lite could boost export sales prospects for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, following the arrival of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter in the international market.
The strategy would prevent jammer pod releasibility issues from holding up incremental EA-18G export sales to Super Hornet customers. The USA's next-generation jammer is not expected to become operational until around the middle of the next decade. The ALQ-99 tactical jamming pod which equips the US Navy's Super Hornets is no longer in production.
"There is some interest in having just the awareness, not the attack," says Bob Gower, Boeing vice president F/A-18 and EA-18 programmes, speaking at the Aero India airshow in Bangalore. "This came from discussions with customers," he adds.
An air force equipped with a couple of squadrons of Super Hornets could use around four "electronic awareness" Growler Lites to enhance its battlespace management capabilities, says Gower, and ensure that attacking aircraft are able to safely enter and leave the conflict zone.
"One element of that is to understand where the threats are," says Gower. "Part of our strategy will be to sell Super Hornets where Growlers help. It's a great market-shaping opportunity for us."
As well as jammer pod exportability issues, some nations may be reluctant to raise regional tensions by introducing an electronic attack capability, says Gower.
He adds that Boeing could begin formally marketing the Growler Lite this year, but not in time for June's Paris Air Show.
Boeing is planning to offer 'Growler Lite' to potential export customers
India is evaluating the Super Hornet alongside five other fighter types from European, Russian and US manufacturers as part of its 126-aircraft medium multirole combat aircraft programme.
Australia - the only announced export customer for the Super Hornet - has expressed interest in potentially acquiring several Growlers.
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