May 22, 2007:
The U.S. Navy has ordered its first
eighteen EA-18G electronic warfare (EW) aircraft, for about $73 million each.
The navy received its first F-18F reconfigured as an electronic warfare (EW)
aircraft last Fall. This is a specialized warplane that uses electronic
detectors and jammers, plus missiles than home in on radars, to clear the way
through enemy air defenses for bombers. Officially known as the EA-18G
"Growler", they will replace the elderly EA-6B "Prowler." The EA-18G won't enter service until 2009. It
will take about two years to build the first EA-18G, which is based on the two
seat version of the F-18F.
Five years ago, the navy mounted some EW pods on an
F-18F and found that the aircraft performed well in that configuration. The
navy plans to buy over 50 EA-18Gs. The elderly EA-6Bs are not expected to last
much beyond 2015 (they entered service in 1971). The 29 ton EA-18G will carry
up to five electronic warfare pods, plus two AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and two
anti-radiation (HARM) missiles. It will probably be the last manned aircraft to
handle the EW job. UAVs are becoming more capable, and will eventually take
over this dangerous task.