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US Navy buys three MQ-4 Tritons and upgrades jamming systems on EA-18G Growler aircraft

The US Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a pair of contracts worth nearly $287 million to buy unmanned surveillance aircraft and to develop upgraded tactical jamming capabilities on manned aircraft.

US Navy buys Three MQ 4 Tritons and upgrade jamming systems on EA 18G Growler aircraft MQ-4 Triton (Picture source: Northrop Grumman)

The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $251.6 million contract modification to build three low-rate initial production MQ-4 Triton reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft is massive for unmanned aerial vehicles – wingspan of 130.9 feet and length of 47.6 feet, according to a Naval Air Systems Command fact sheet.

The Navy planned for the Triton to reach initial operational capability in 2021, according to a presentation made by NAVAIR officials during the Navy League’s 2018 Sea Air Space Exposition. The first squadron deployed to Guam in September reported Breaking Defense.

Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions.

The Navy also awarded Northrop Grumman a $35.2 million to develop upgrades for the tactical jamming capabilities on EA-18G Growler aircraft.

“The AN/ALQ-218 tactical jamming receiver is designed to provide a high probability of intercept under “look-through” operations – a meshing of jamming and listening,” according to Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman is developing an upgrade to the AN/ALQ-218 system to it can both support enemy radar threat jamming and allow for direction finding and geo-location, parameter measurement and intentional modulation-on-pulse detection, according to Northrop Grumman.

“Improved connectivity and linked displays are the primary design features implemented to reduce the operator workload,” according to a specifications list by the Pentagon’s office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, DOT&E.

Northrop Grumman expects to finish installing the upgraded equipment by May 2022.

Northrop Grumman is already in the middle of developing the Next Generation Jammer – Low Band or NGJ-LB to replace the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System on Growlers. The old ALQ-99 equipment on Growlers dates back to the EA-6B Prowler aircraft.

This effort will likely cost about $1 billion when it is completed.

US Navy buys Three MQ 4 Tritons and upgrade jamming systems on EA 18G Growler aircraft 02 U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler (Picture source: US Air Force)