Boeing and the U.S. Navy turn Growler jets into remote-controlled drones as ‘force multiplier’

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Alan BoyleGeekWireFebruary 4, 2020, 12:18 PM CST

The era of remote-controlled combat jets has come a little closer in the wake of a demonstration staged by Boeing and the Navy to fly two autonomously controlled EA-18G Growlers as uncrewed air systems.

  • Boeing said 21 demonstration missions were conducted during four flights from Maryland’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River. A third Growler served as a mission controller for the other two — which had “safety pilots” in their cockpits to do takeoffs and landings, and make sure the planes didn’t go awry in autonomous mode..
  • The flights were part of the Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual fleet experiment exercises, and proved the effectiveness of technology allowing Growler electronic-warfare aircraft and F/A-18 Super Hornets to perform combat missions with uncrewed air systems, Boeing said.
  • “This technology allows the Navy to extend the reach of sensors while keeping manned aircraft out of harm’s way,” Tom Brandt, Boeing Manned-UnManned Teaming demonstration lead, said in today’s news release. “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.”
The Boeing-built EA-18G Growler is a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet that is specialized for tactical jamming and electronic protection. (Boeing Photo)
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