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Northrop Grumman contract to support Growler fleet upgrades

Northrop Grumman has secured a US$35.2 million firm-fixed-price contract to build the Airborne Electronic Attack System Enhancements (ASE) program AN/ALQ-218 recurring kits to retrofit the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force EA-18G Growler fleets.

Northrop Grumman has secured a US$35.2 million firm-fixed-price contract to build the Airborne Electronic Attack System Enhancements (ASE) program AN/ALQ-218 recurring kits to retrofit the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force EA-18G Growler fleets.

Work will be performed at Linthicum, Maryland (90 per cent), and Bethpage, New York (10 per cent), and is expected to be completed in May 2022. 

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Fiscal 2019 and 2020 aircraft procurement (Navy); and foreign military sales (FMS) funds in the amount of $35,200,000 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.  

As the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare mission suite integrator, Northrop Grumman has partnered with the US Navy to deliver this advanced work for a complex warfighter problem set.

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The completion of the ASE program will mark over five decades of innovation and partnership between the two teams. This US Navy and Northrop Grumman effort will progress from a development design to a retrofittable AN/ALQ-218 kit capable of being installed in the DoD’s only tactical electronic attack aircraft.

A follow-on contract from NAVAIR in 2020 is expected to complete the installation of the government supplied retrofit kit of weapon removable assemblies (WRAs). There will be several follow-on lots to complete the entire US Navy fleet and RAAF upgrade.

The AN/ALQ-218 tactical jamming receiver installed on the EA-18G is the world’s only receiver system proven to provide high probability of intercept under 'Look-Through' operations – a meshing of jamming and listening.

This enables direction finding and geo-location, parameter measurement and intentional modulation-on-pulse detection while simultaneously supporting enemy radar threat jamming.

The AN/ALQ-218 utilises a unique combination of short and long baseline interferometer techniques along with a patented passive ranging algorithm to provide precision geo-location of all ground-based emitters.

Northrop Grumman is a leader in multi-mission electronic manoeuvre warfare technologies and a strong partner of the Australian Defence Force, both through our local business unit and through the US FMS program.

Building on the company's current expertise as the electronic attack mission suite provider (integrating the ALQ-99 tactical jamming system and ALQ-218 tactical jamming receiver) for the Royal Australian Air Force and US Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler fleets, Northrop Grumman stands ready to deliver continued enhancements and future Growler capabilities for Australia.

Northrop Grumman's upgrade program for the US Navy's Growlers will see capability improvements developed for Australia's own fleet of electronic attack Growler aircraft. 

"Northrop Grumman is a leader in multi-mission electronic manoeuvre warfare technologies and a strong partner of the Australian Defence Force, both through our local business unit and through the US foreign military sales program. We are particularly proud of our ongoing support of the Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 6 Squadron as it employs and enhances its Boeing E/A-18G Growler fleet," said a Northrop Grumman spokesperson following the announcement of a the Northrop Grumman's participation in the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) program in late-2018. 

Australia's fleet of 11 EA-18G Growlers will be based at RAAF Base Amberley and operate in conjunction with our air, land and sea forces.

Based on F/A-18E/F Super Hornet variant of the wildly successful Boeing Hornet, the EA-18G Growler has proven itself to be an invaluable asset to the US when deployed overseas. As the only nation besides the US to fly the Growler, Australia has developed unique training procedures in conjunction with US Navy partners to fully utilise the capabilities of the aircraft. 

Australia's Growlers were part of a larger US Navy buy of 44 Super Hornets and Growlers in July 2014, with the first Australian EA-18G making it's first flight in July 2015.

All 12 original Australian Growlers were formally welcomed to their home base at RAAF Amberley in 2017, providing air crews and pilots the opportunity to build familiarity and an understanding of the aircraft and its unique capabilities. 

The partnership between the US Navy and the RAAF has been instrumental in ensuring that Australia's Growler pilots, crew and the capability of the aircraft is maximised, particularly as Australia is essentially building the electronic attack capability from the ground up.

This has meant that Australian pilots and aircrews are undergoing extensive familiarisation and training programs with US Navy counterparts prior to additional training in Australia in order to incorporate the capabilities of the aircraft into the wider RAAF and ADF. 

It is now expected that the Growlers of No. 6 Squadron RAAF will be capable of providing limited, force-level electronic warfare.

This means that until final operating capability (FOC) is achieved, the aircraft will be largely limited to peacetime operations or responding to regional contingencies as needed.

Reaching FOC will require additional testing and broader integration with key ADF assets, particularly the Navy's new air warfare destroyers, Air Force's E-7 Wedgetail AEWC aircraft and later F-35s and key ground assets of the Army to ensure that the ADF is developed into a full-spectrum, integrated force.

FOC for Australia's Growlers is expected in 2022. 

Northrop Grumman contract to support Growler fleet upgrades
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