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EA-18G Growler upgrades under test

13 November 2019
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The first NGJ-MB pod is seen being fit checked on a VX-23 EA-18G Growler in September. Source: USN

The US Navy (USN) has disclosed a number of near-term upgrades to the Boeing EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft, including the introduction of a new Tactical Offensive Radio Operations (TORO) special capabilities pod.

Revealed in the Naval Air Systems Command's in-house journal Naval Aviation News , the updates include 'Speed to Fleet' initiatives designed to enhance AEA capability in advance of the more extensive Block II upgrade planned for the E/A-18G. Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, is leading development test and qualification activity.

Developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory for advanced electronic surveillance and attack, the TORO pod "offers a unique hardware infrastructure capability itself, allowing new technologies to quickly be integrated with the Growler in a plug-and-play fashion to rapidly counter new threats", said Naval Aviation News . As a 'Speed to Fleet' initiative, the goal for this programme is to rapidly test and field an early operational capability to the Electronic Attack Wing by the end of 2019.

Little detail of the TORO pod has been released. However, Naval Aviation News noted that the system "has the potential to significantly enhance future Growler mission effectiveness, as the physical pod itself will ultimately serve as a flight-cleared trade space in which to house future advanced payloads not yet in existence and give the fleet a dynamic edge in countering rapidly changing threats".

Having already introduced System Configuration Set (SCS) build H14 to select fleet squadrons in early 2019, test and evaluation activity is now focused on SCS H16. Planned for fleet release in 2021, H16 will include major hardware upgrades for the Growler alongside improved software. VX-23 is planned to have five EA-18G Growlers conducting H16 flight test by the end of 2019.

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