Boeing and the US Navy successfully flew two autonomously-controlled EA-18G GROWLERs at Naval Air Station Patuxent River as unmanned air systems recently, using a third GROWLER as mission controller for the other two, the company announced on 4 February.

The flights, conducted during Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual fleet experiment (FLEX) exercises, proved the effectiveness of technology allowing F/A-18 SUPER HORNETs and EA-18G GROWLERs to conduct combat missions with unmanned systems. Over the course of four flights, 21 demonstration missions were completed.

This demonstration allows Boeing and the Navy the opportunity to analyse the data collected and decide where to make investments in future technologies,” explained 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.”

An EF-18G GROWLER electronic attack platform taking off with a human pilot at the controls… (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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