By Graham Warwick in St Louis

Boeing rolls out F/A-18F Super Hornet derivative and plans maiden flight within weeks

Boeing rolled out the first of two development EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft last week, with the first flight planned to take place ahead of schedule in mid-August.

Assembly has begun, meanwhile, on the first of 90 production EA-18Gs planned for the US Navy. The dedicated jamming derivative of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet is to replace the navy's Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers, with initial operational capability set for 2009 and 10 five-aircraft squadrons to be fully equipped by 2012.

© Boeing

The EA-18G offers more powerful jamming and improved combat capability over the Grumman EA-6B Prowler

The initial Block 1 EA-18G is equipped with the ALQ-218(V)2 receiver system, ALQ-227 communication countermeasures set and ALQ-99 low- and high-band jammer pods, taken from the EA-6B. Compared with the Prowler, says programme manager Mike Gibbons, the Growler offers improved emitter identification and location: wider-frequency, more-powerful communications jamming the ability to communicate while jamming and the combat capability of the baseline F/A-18F, including active electronically scanned array radar (AESA).

F/A-18 programme Capt Donald Gaddis says the roadmap of future enhancements to the EA-18G includes integration of the AESA into the electronic attack system for use as a jammer. There are plans to expand the interference-cancellation system to allow use of Mode 5 IFF and Link 16 datalink while jamming. Use of the electronic attack system as a self-protection radar warning receiver is also planned.

"We will also look at a next-generation jammer," says Gaddis. "Even­tually we will use the EA-18 as a battle manager." This would include directing F/A-18E/Fs using their AESAs as jammers in attacks on integrated air-defence systems.

Source: Flight International