Boeing lanza avión para engañar radares

Tim McLaughlin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Aug. 4–Boeing Co. unveiled a new combat plane Thursday that’s designed to jam and slam enemy radar and communications while bolstering the U.S. military’s electronic warfare plans.
Several hundred people gathered inside a Boeing hangar to see the first Growler, a derivative of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet that’s loaded with radar-jamming gear. The U.S. Navy plans to buy 90 of the planes in a contract that would be worth an estimated $9 billion.
Boeing’s St. Louis-based defense unit recently caused the aerospace and defense giant to lose money in the second quarter because of contract delays with surveillance planes being made for Turkey and Australia. But combat planes are the meat and potatoes of Boeing’s defense business, and they sustain about 16,300 workers in St. Louis.
Jim Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing’s defense unit, said the contract won’t add new jobs, but it should keep workers busy into the next decade. The Growler’s first flight is expected this month, several weeks ahead of schedule, Boeing and Navy officials said.
Meanwhile, Albaugh and his team are trying to land a huge contract for the Super Hornet in India, where the government wants to buy more than 100 fighters to upgrade its combat fleet. International sales are a possibility for the Growler, too, Albaugh said.
Admiral Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, said the Growler will save U.S. taxpayers several billion dollars because its design comes from an existing airframe. Starting from scratch is more expensive and fraught with development risks.
«The Growler’s predecessor is flying vital missions over Iraq and Afghanistan,» Mullen said. «But they need to be replaced as soon as possible.»
Boeing produced the first Growler in less than a year. Navy pilots could be flying Growlers on missions sometime in 2009.
The Growler replaces the Navy’s aging EA-6B Prowler, which Navy officials describe as slow and unable to defend itself from enemy aircraft. In contrast, Boeing’s Growler will operate at speeds similar to a Super Hornet and carry missiles. Flight crews also will be able to talk to other pilots while jamming, a capability the Prowler doesn’t have.
And with more automation and better cockpit displays, the Growler needs only two crew members. The Prowler uses as many as four.
U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., said that during a tour of an aircraft carrier he was told by maintenance crews the Prowler needs four hours of work on the ground for one hour of flight. The Prowler has been in service since 1971 and first saw combat in Vietnam in 1972, according to military research firm Global Security.
Boeing received a $1 billion contract in late 2003 to show that it could build and demonstrate Growlers, or EA-18Gs, in action. Production began 298 days after Boeing got the contract.
Full-rate production of the plane could begin in 2009, and 10 Navy squadrons could have the plane by 2012.
«Demand for electronic warfare remains high and will grow,» Mullen said.
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