US Navy conducts demo flight of autonomous EA-18G Growler aircraft
Boeing and the US Navy have successfully flown two autonomous, linked EA-18G Growler aircraft in four demonstration flights at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. Flying with a third manned Growler acting as mission controller, the tests saw the aircraft complete 21 demonstration missions.
According to Boeing, the recent demonstration was part of the Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual fleet experiment (FLEX) exercises and was designed to show the ability of F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers to use unmanned systems to conduct combat missions.
The company hasn't released many details, but the demonstration appears to be related to the Boeing Airpower Teaming System that is being developed with the Australian government with the goal of producing a combat drone that has fighter-like performance. Using similar technology, the recent test flights show how the EA-18G Growler, which is an electronic warfare variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, can be used in a pilot-optional mode for hazardous missions.
"This demonstration allows Boeing and the Navy the opportunity to analyze the data collected and decide where to make investments in future technologies," says Tom Brandt, Boeing Manned-Unmanned Teaming demonstration lead. "It could provide synergy with other US Navy unmanned systems in development across the spectrum and in other services. This technology allows the Navy to extend the reach of sensors while keeping manned aircraft out of harm’s way. It’s a force multiplier that enables a single aircrew to control multiple aircraft without greatly increasing workload. It has the potential to increase survivability as well as situational awareness."