Advanced jammer, precision-guided weapons and AESA radar on wish list later

The US Navy has mapped out a spiral acquisition plan for the new Boeing EA-18G electronic attack aircraft to allow system development and demonstration (SDD) of the initial Block 1 version to start in October. With work on the New Technology (NT) jamming pod due to begin in 2006, this is being earmarked for inclusion on follow-on Block 2/3 variants, along with the integration of the F/A-18E/F's active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

Boeing and the USN are looking for approval in October to kick off a $1.5 billion SDD effort aimed at fielding the first operational squadron of EA-18Gs by fiscal year 2009. The navy is planning to buy 90 EA-18Gs, sufficient to support 10 carrier air wings with five aircraft apiece, and to retire the Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler by 2015.

Block 1 will be equipped with the Improved Capability 3 (ICAP 3) electronic warfare suite being tested on the EA-6B, including the upgraded ALQ-99 jammer and ALQ-218/LR-700 digital receiver. The latter will be repackaged to fit into two wingtip pods and in the gun bay. With development of the Raytheon APG-79 AESA radar for the F/A-18E/F Block 2 not yet complete, it was decided to hold off integrating it with ICAP 3.

AESA is capable of jamming in the high-frequency waveband as a back-up to ICAP 3's wider spectrum coverage, and integration is planned for Block 2/3 but not yet funded. The navy is hoping to secure money in 2006 to start work on the NT Pod to replace the ALQ-99. It wants a system that is easily reconfigurable to provide more focused coverage and requiring fewer pods than the five on the EA-6B needed to cover Bands 1-10.

In addition to removing the gun, the aircraft will have no AIM-9X wingtip missiles and will initially be armed only with the Raytheon AGM-88 anti-radiation missile and AIM-120 air-to-air missile. The USN has chosen to include wiring harness and bracket provisions in all two-seat F/A-18Fs built from Lot 30 in case it requires additional jammers but, once converted, EA-18Gs cannot be reconfigured back to Fs.

The Block 2/3 wishlist includes more precision-guided weapons like the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 JAASM cruise missile and Raytheon AGM-154 unpowered stand-off munition, the F/A-18E/F's Integrated defensive electronic countermeasures suite, a new communications jammer and the software-programmable Joint Tactical Radio System.


Source: Flight International