By Paolo Valpolini
At the time of our visit to the St. Louis facility, Boeing was still awaiting for a confirmation on the EA-18G Growler Block II, the Request for Information issued in late May having then lifted the clouds, marking the first step towards this upgrade programme. “We are in a really preliminary phase,” says Jennifer Tebo, Boeing’s Director of Development for the F-18 Super Hornet, who also deals with the Growler. “This year we received a first piece of funding for the Growler Block II to get to the System Functional Requirements phase by the end of this year,” she explained, “the aim being to get all functional requirements nailed down.” Boeing is working on an architecture trade study to determine what needs to be enhanced and how it should be enhanced, in order to provide the best balanced solution to the Navy.
“The Growler Block II will take a lot of what we have done on the Super Hornet Block III, including the Advanced Cockpit System and conformal fuel tanks,” Tebo says, adding that remaining upgrades will be specific to the electronic attack suite. It is to note that in the Growler the shift from drop tanks to conformal ones not only will increase the time on station and reduce the radar cross section, but it will also avoid interfering with the central EW pod. The mission system will also be upgraded in order to improve the information distributing process, reducing the crew workload thanks to the new software and the cockpit touch screen. The Growler Block II will also integrate a number of programmes of record, such as the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) that is split in three different systems, the Mid-Band, 2-6 GHz, already in development, the Low-Band (100 MHz-2 GHz) which Request for Information was issued in early June, and the High-Band (6-18 GHz), which has yet to be started. These systems should be ready by 2025, when Boeing expects to deliver the first Growler Block II. The Tactical Targeting Network Technology will definitely be installed, in order to exchange information with Block III Super Hornets as well as E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.
According to available information the US Navy plans to upgrade to the Block II standard all its Growlers. How many of the updates will be releasable to foreign users of the Growler remains to be seen. Currently Australia is the only export user, however Germany and Poland are two potential customers, although Boeing is offering Block I aircraft as part of the Super Hornet/Growler package.
Photos courtesy Boeing