With The Opening Of A Modification Line, The Navy’s EA-18G Growlers Will Finally Get Next Generation Jammers

If you seem to have heard the acronym NGJ forever, it’s not just a perception. The next-generation jammer – the hardware and software replacement of the Navy for AN / ALQ-99 flights with a tactical jamming system in 1970, flying the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler – has been under development since 2008. .

The opening of a new Growler Ability Modification Line (GCM) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington will finally see the Mid-Range Jammer Next Generation Jammer Mid (AN / ALQ-249 (V) 1) placed on EA-18G operational . The integration of the pods is the first major effort to upgrade the capabilities of the EA-18G Growler in its history.

In a slightly appropriate timing, the first aircraft to receive the GCM mods was actually the first EA-18G delivered to the fleet, the G-01, which joined the fleet in 2007 (the last of the 162 USN Growlers was delivered in 2019). ).

The G-01 and two other early Growlers underwent modifications before GCM (to correct an early production problem) from Boeing

on Widi Island since last October. This trio will also be the first to receive the new NGJ pods.

The modification line has been built in the existing hangar facilities and is expected to remain open for about five years, upgrading about 32 aircraft per year depending on operational requirements.

Plans have not yet been determined, says Fleet Commander Chris Girhart, head of Growler Systems Integration for the F / A-18 / EA-18G program office. This includes the integration of high- and low-bandwidth capabilities of NGJ, the development of which may or may not be possible until then.

“The low and high band iterations of NGJ are still quite early in their development,” says CDR Gierhart. “We will continue to monitor this, and if there are any windows of opportunity to bring them to the Navy more quickly, we will look for them.”

The modifications are primarily intended to facilitate the addition of NGJ-MB, but the integration of advanced connection data also makes Growler compatible with the Collaborative Tactical Targeting Technology (TTNT) developed by Collins Aerospace.

“TTNT gives us a pipeline to pass more information to the joint forces. “The amount of data needed to support a joint operation these days continues to grow,” Gierhart said.

The software update will also improve the cockpit displays that will be used by Growler crews. “It provides a slightly smoother flow,” explains Girhart, “because NGJ does a little more on its own than the ALQ-99.”

These things according to reports includes its ability to combine electronic countermeasures with AESA radar and signal intelligence functions, while serving as a communication array. The cyber-attack capabilities in which AESA radar is used to insert custom data streams into remote systems are also thought to be found in the NGJ.

The Navy refers to capabilities such as the Airborne Electronic Attack System Enhancements. CDR Gierhart says the improvements include “improved [threat] longer distance detection ”. This is also thought to imply an active EW attack on a larger range. Gierhart added that “If he uses radio spectrum, we will find a way to attack it.”

This would put software-defined radios and waveforms in the waist. Interestingly, when asked if GCM mods will provide options to detect or counter EA-18G against passive thermal tracking or photonic communication systems, EA-18G Growler’s Deputy Program Manager, Captain Stephen May, said: “This it is not something we can discuss. ”

There will be no structural modifications to Growler aircraft, but optical lines will pass through the pylons of the aircraft’s wings to the pods. Some side wiring will also be removed, which facilitates slight weight loss.

Improved capability is something the navy and other services have been looking forward to. While the bandwidth for GCM modifications is expected to vary, the program office recognizes the demand for improved Growlers.

“If there are options to speed it up, they can be exercised,” CAPT May confirmed. “Would we like to do this faster than five years?” Yes. “