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Boeing Tests EA-18 EW Variant

Wed Nov 21, 2001 6:54 pm

Few days ago Boeing completed an initial test flight of a new variant of the Super Hornet: the EA-18.
It is based on the two seats F/A-18F and it is intended as a replacement for the ageing joint USN/USAF operated EA-6B Prowlers. It will use the same ALQ-99 jamming pods of the Prowler, typically carrying 3 plus 2 external tanks, 2 AGM-88 HARMs and 2 to 4 AIM-9/120 AAMs. See Boeing website for details and pictures.
It should be one of the best solutions to finally have a good EW platform considering that the EA-6Bs have been in service since the late 60's or early 70's.
I still don't know if the EA-18 will have the same capabilities as the Prowler also considering that it lacks the four men cockpit and the Rugby-ball shaped radome on the fin tip, which houses the receiving antennas of its complex EW system.
At least the performances of the Super Hornet will be better than the EA-6B in terms of acceleration and top speed.

What are your thoughts?
Do you think the USNavy should go with a further upgrade of the Prowler maybe building new frames or should they develop a completely new aircraft?


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RE: Boeing Tests EA-18 EW Variant

Thu Nov 22, 2001 3:22 am

There is a detailed article on the project in this weeks Flight International.
It's the best solution all round, though the USAF and USMC may not agree.
Personally, I think the USMC, once the F-18C/D's are replaced by STOVL JSF's, should keep to being 100% STOVL. The USN could provide EW/SEAD support, which they are already doing for the USAF. Not that retiring the EF-111's was a good idea.
A two seat STOVL JSF version would not have room for the EW equipment.
The USAF may go with converting some F-15E's, though a new build F-16D Block 60 version could fit the bill better in the long term.

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RE: Boeing Tests EA-18 EW Variant

Thu Nov 22, 2001 4:01 am

I think for the US air force, that converting F-15E's, or buying new build E's converted to wild weasels will be the best option. The f-16 just doesn't have the range, and I think that a 2 seater is definitely preferable to a single seater in the wild weasel role

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RE: Boeing Tests EA-18 EW Variant

Thu Nov 22, 2001 6:07 pm

I agree with you that the F-15E is a better option for the USAF.
I have also saw an EW variant of the LM X-35 JSF project in a drawing but we must remember that one thing is a SEAD platform and another one is EW.
In the US forces the SEAD mission is taken out by F-16CJ in the USAF and Harm equipped F-18 in USN/USMC while for the EW role there are only the EA-6B now that the EF-111 have been retired.
By the way thet decision to retire the EF-111 maybe was not correct but the main reason was their age and high maintenace requirements (they were based on F-111A models rather than the more modern F-111F).


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RE: Boeing Tests EA-18 EW Variant

Fri Nov 23, 2001 2:31 am

I mentioned F-16 Block 60 as that could have the new upper fuselage conformal fuel tanks, and it will be in production for some time, unlike the F-15E. But there would be more space and a heavier weapon load on the F-15E.
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Mon Nov 26, 2001 6:23 am

There was an article on the upcoming EW platform in AW&ST not to long ago. The article said that the F/A-18G "Growler" had pretty much been ruled out as the EA-6B replacement. It was not as easy as Boeing and the Navy thought to turn the F/A-18F into the G model and it was becoming very expensive. For the most part, the project was killed. An option that came about due to this was the advent of the EA-6C Prowler which would be newly manufactured Prowlers with GE F404 or 414 engines, newer jamming equipment etc. It would be the same basic platform as the EA-6B but updated and ready to take on the challenges of this century.

That being said, the current EA-6B is still an awesome aircraft that fullfills its role diligently.
"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid." D. Eisenhower

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