One billion dollars of electronic warfare tech will be amping up the Growler fighter jet.

This week, the U.S. Navy awarded a $1 billion contract to Raytheon to build the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ). Chosen to replace the legacy ALQ-99 systems used on the EA-18G Growler, the NGJ is a cutting-edge electronic attack smart pod that will take the already-impressive Growler capabilities to an unprecedented level.

The NGJ will play a vital role in staying ahead of adversaries’ capabilities. The tech will give the US military even greater power, further enhanced precision, and a faster response time for electronic attack and electronic warfare counter-measures.

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To help thwart adversaries from targeting them, US forces can deploy jammers, making aircraft and troops “invisible” to enemy tech.  Preventing detection enables effective strikes and helps keep American fighters safe.

Jammers can also even be used to create phantom aircraft to mislead enemy forces into believing other aircraft are in the air.

Growler

The NGJ will enhance what is arguably the most advanced airborne electronic attack aircraft in the world: the EA-18G Growler. The Growler regularly provides tactical jamming and electronic protection to U.S. military forces and allies around the world.

A variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, the aircraft combines electronic attack with fighter aircraft speed and maneuverability. Typically crewed with one pilot and one weapon systems officer, Growler can reach speeds of 1190 mph.

Ahead of ground, maritime, and other aircraft teams, Growler can enter the fight first, unleashing a devastating electronic attack. Using electronic attack tech, the aircraft can suppress enemy air and ground defenses.

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By jamming enemy radar, the Growler helps both air crews and ground strike teams to reach their target without being detected.  

In addition to jamming the adversary’s communications over a broad frequency range, the ALQ-227 Communications Countermeasures Set also allows the Growler to locate, record, and play back enemy transmissions.

US forces need to work in heavily jammed environments. The Growler can unleash its Interference Cancellation System to defeat the jamming systems and ensure uninterrupted radio communications for ground, maritime, and air forces.

Equipped with AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles, the Growler can protect itself as well as attack enemy aircraft.

How does it work?

Electronic warfare capabilities are shrouded in secrecy and the NGJ is no exception.

In electronic warfare, radio waves, laser light or other directed energy are weaponized to disrupt, disable, or confuse the enemy's electronics. This type of capability also allows US forces to sense incoming missile radar, listen to adversaries’ radio signals, and more.

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Very few details have emerged about the NGJ, but here’s what we know. NGJ will involve a combination of agile, high-powered beam-jamming techniques together with truly next gen solid-state electronics. Many of the Growler’s jamming capabilities fit in the gun bay and in two wingtip pods.

Next steps

The military will receive 14 Growler aeromechanical pods for airworthiness certification as well as 15 Engineering Development Model pods for mission systems testing and qualification from Raytheon.

The Navy is aiming for operational capability in 2021.

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book "Future Weapons: Access Granted"  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.