Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Boeing and the U.S. Navy flew two autonomously controlled, unmanned EA-18G Growlers at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, Boeing announced Tuesday.
A third Growler served as the mission controller for the other two, Boeing said, completing nearly two dozen demonstration missions during the Navy Warfare Development Command's annual fleet experiment exercises.
The flights were intended to prove that F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers can effectively run combat missions using unmanned systems.
The EA-18G Growler is a specialized version of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, a carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft that can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons.
Growlers can accompany F/A-18s during attack missions, and are structurally similar, but also have ALQ-99 high and low-band tactical jamming pods meant to provide detection and jamming against all known surface-to-air threats.
"This demonstration allows Boeing and the Navy the opportunity to analyze the data collected and decide where to make investments in future technologies," Tom Brandt, Boeing's Manned-UnManned Teaming demonstration lead, said in a statement. "It could provide synergy with other U.S. Navy unmanned systems in development across the spectrum and in other services."
According to Boeing, the Growlers conducted 21 demonstration missions over the course of four flights.
"This technology allows the Navy to extend the reach of sensors while keeping manned aircraft out of harm's way," Brandt said. "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."