Growler to Benefit from Netted Sensors ’17 Experiments

Two EA-18G Growlers from Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 209 complete refueling off a KC-135 tanker between Hawaii and Guam. (U.S. Navy photo)


Warfighters operating F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growlers can anticipate improvements in survivability, situational awareness and enhanced targeting thanks to the Netted Sensors 2017 (NS17) fleet experiment in August.

The series of high-priority experiments is sponsored by the commanders of U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Pacific Fleet and conducted by Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) as part of the Navy’s Fleet Experimentation (FLEX) program.

Participating in the event were the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office, several Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) shore test sites plus Navy aircraft and ships and the Air Force RC-135V/W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft. Fleet personnel led by Carrier Strike Group 12 provided warfighting feedback on prototype tactical displays during the experiments.

The event focused on networking sensors over the new Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) data link, which provided information to warfighters on ships and in NAWCAD’s Surface/Aviation Interoperability Laboratory (SAIL) as they executed long range war at sea scenarios.

Specific F/A-18 and EA-18G initiatives focused on Common Tactical Picture (CTP), Multi-Ship Electronic Surveillance (ESM), Growler Manned-Unmanned Teaming with the DASH-X/REMEDY unmanned system, and Network-Centric Collaborative Targeting (NCCT) technologies.

CTP will be implemented over several operational flight program software builds to leverage the TTNT and digital targeting processor to rapidly exchange strike fighter sensor information. This allows pilots to see the entire battle space by sharing their own aircraft’s sensor-developed tracks with tracks from other aircraft, developing a more complete air picture and improving overall situational awareness. The CTP also enhances targeting capabilities, improving overall timelines and performance in the air-to-air threat environment.

The Growlers also participated in a larger demonstration of NCCT, a joint Program of Record which leverages the increased data-sharing capacity of TTNT—a viable, mature solution that satisfies DOD’s airborne networking requirements—and hosts multiple fusion capabilities to improve battlespace awareness. The program is speeding the cueing of sensors and targeting through the use of joint data standards and interfaces enhance kill chain effectiveness. (A kill chain is the sequence of actions from detecting a target to engaging it in attack.) Multi-sensor geolocation events were supported by all sensor nodes in the network and enabled by “fusion forward,” with NCCT fusion engines located onboard U.S. ships for the first time.

Tom Church is a communication specialist with the F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office.