US Navy requests 2004 start date for system development and demonstration

Boeing and Northrop Grumman are finally under contract to prepare for system development and demonstration (SDD) of the EA-18G electronic-attack derivative of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The US Navy is seeking fiscal year 2004 funding to begin SDD, leading to first deliveries in 2008.

The most recent procurement plans call for the acquisition of 90 EA-18Gs in addition to 460 F/A-18E/Fs. The EA-18G is a derivative of the two-seat F/A-18F, and beyond a certain point in production all Fs will be built with provisions for modification to Gs, says Paul Summers, director F/A-18 derivative programmes.

Boeing hopes to hear this month whether funding to begin the five-year, $1 billion SDD programme made the 2004 budget request. The USN will begin replacing its ageing Northrop Grumman EA-6Bs as early as 2008, and a 2004 development start would allow an EA-18G initial operational capability by the end of 2009.

On procurement, Summers says: "A lot of options are being discussed." It has not been decided whether EA-18Gs will be included in the next F/A-18E/F multi-year procurement contract, under negotiation, despite potential cost savings. "The cost per copy of the G is inextricably linked to the E/F," says Summers. "The more we build per year, the lower the cost per unit."

The EA-18G is based on the Block 2 Super Hornet now in development, introducing the Raytheon APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and missionised rear cockpit. In the G, the AESA will be used for broadband noise jamming, but its high-resolution synthetic-aperture radar mode will also allow the aircraft to locate and attack non-emitting targets, giving the EA-18 a "Wild Weasel" capability the EA-6B lacks, says Boeing.


Source: Flight International