The US Navy (USN) has flown two autonomously controlled Boeing EA-18G Growlers as unmanned air systems at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

Conducted during the Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual fleet experiment (FLEX) exercises, the flights also involved a third Growler that served as a mission controller for the other two.

The flights demonstrated the ability of EA-18G Growler pilots to remotely control fighter and attack platforms from the cockpit.

Boeing manned-unmanned teaming demonstration lead Tom Brandt said: “This demonstration allows Boeing and the navy the opportunity to analyse the data collected and decide where to make investments in future technologies.

“It could provide synergy with other US Navy unmanned systems in development across the spectrum and in other services.”

The company noted that the experiments comprised four flights, with three EA-18 Growlers completing a total of 21 demonstration missions.

Brandt further added: “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.”

The EA-18G Growler, which is an advanced airborne electronic attack (AEA) platform, is a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet and provides tactical jamming and electronic protection to US military forces and allies globally.

Last March, the US Navy Electronic Attack Squadron 135 (VAQ-135) deployed the EA-18G Growler aircraft to the 5th Fleet’s area of operations to help maintain maritime stability and security in the central command’s area of responsibility (AOR).