The Boeing EA-18G Growler was designed to be an carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft
In war, the advantage lies in being able to discern the situation. The US military’s strategy is to use early warning aircrafts like the E-3 Sentry to cover the battlefield, while the EA-18G Growler is to “blind” the enemy radar and electronics.
The EA-18G Growler, manufactured by Boeing, is the current US electronic warfare aircraft. The electronic warfare capability on EA-18G is very powerful and diverse, both jamming the operation of enemy radar stations, and being able to destroy these targets with the missiles it carries.
In actual combat on the battlefields of Iraq and Lybia, the EA-18Gs showed more power than expected. Just a few electronic warplanes can completely disable the opponent’s electronic system, even it can break the phone signal, making communication completely paralyzed.
A total of 150 EA-18G Growlers have been built so far, the US Navy is the main operator of these aircraft. Australia is the only non-US country to own the EA-18G Growler, with twelve already in service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2017. There have been rumors lately that Poland will be the next customer to buy EA-18G Growler. However, the specific number of aircraft and contract value will be discussed in the future.
The Boeing EA-18G Growler was designed to be an carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, essentially a special version of the F/A-18F Super Hornet 2-seat fighter. The Boeing EA-18G Growler was created to replace the Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers that have been in the US Navy since 1971.
Growler’s electronic warfare capabilities are primarily provided by Northrop Grumman. EA-18G was produced in series in 2007 and put into operation in late 2009. To save money, instead of developing an entirely new aircraft, Boeing reused the Super Hornet airframe.
EA-18G Growler shares over 90% of Super Hornet’s design, the same airframe, AN/APG-79 AESA radar and weapons system such as the AN/AYK-22 stores management system.
The 20 mm Vulcan cannon was removed from the nose to add to the electronic system, and so did the other parts of the airframe. Behind the nose is the cockpit for the two-man crew, the pilot sits in the front while the rear is the officer operating the electronic warfare system.
The cockpit is equipped with liquid crystal screens to display infomations and control the system, along with HOTAS hands-on throttle and stick control and full digital fly-by-wire controls. Two rectangular air intakes are located below the main wings with the wing roots extended forward. In order to give the Growler more stable flight for the electronic warfare mission, Boeing changed the leading edge fairings and wing fold hinge fairings, and added wing fences and aileron “tripper strips”.
The ALQ-218 receiver is installed at the wing tip, in addition there is ALQ-99 high and low-band tactical jamming pods. The ALQ-218 combined with the ALQ-99 form a full spectrum electronic warfare suite that is able to provide detection and jamming against all known surface-to-air threats.
Nine weapons stations remain free to provide for additional weapons or jamming pods. The empennage consists of two vertical tail fins facing outwards, two horizontal fins set up at the rear, near the engine exhaust. The undercarriage system is an arrangement of three retractable conventional wheels.
With the change of structure and addition of avionics and electronic warfare systems, the aircraft’s empty weight increased by 800kg from the original to 15,000kg and the loaded weight increased by 1,350kg to 21,775 Kg, Growler’s maximum takeoff weight is 30 tons.
The EA-18G is powered by two General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofan engines, providing dry thrust up to 62.3 kilo Newtons each, while thrust with afterburner up to 97.9 kilo Newtons each. These engines help the aircraft reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 at an altitude of 12,190m, its operating range is 2,346km, the combat radius is 722km, the service ceiling is 15,000m.
Basically, Growler’s flight performance is similar to that of the F/A-18E/F. This attribute enables the Growler to perform escort jamming as well as the traditional standoff jamming mission. Growlers are able to accompany F/A-18s during all phases of an attack mission.
The EA-18G can be equipped with five ALQ-99 tactical jamming pods, plus two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles for self-defense or two AGM-88 HARM High-speed Anti-radiation missiles. The EA-18G will also use the INCANS Interference Cancellation system that will allow voice communication while jamming enemy communications, a capability not available on the EA-6B.
In addition to the radar warning and jamming equipment, the Growler possesses a communications receiver and jamming system that will provide suppression and electronic attack against airborne communication threats.
ALQ-99 on Growler uses ultra-low frequency electromagnetic waves, which are said to be capable of jamming and suppressing all modern radar. In the air strikes conducted by the US Navy in Syria, when the EA-18G Growler carried the ALQ-99 electronic warfare pods appear in the sky, the enemy’s air defense was immediately paralyzed. At this time, the radar display of the enemy will completely lose the target, only the noise bands that can not distinguish the type of aircraft or the range of penetration to give warnings and guidance. The danger of EA-18G Growler is that it is a real means of destruction, while both disabling the radio wave of the defending side and directly launching the destruction.
While ALQ-99 is still proving its superiority, Americans have launched a very powerful upgrade variant of this tactical jammer, the ALQ-249. The shape of the ALQ-249 is considered to be better aerodynamic for the aircraft, and it is expected that the tests of this equipment will begin in 2020. The details of this ALQ-249 tactical jammer have not been announced clearly, only that the manufacturer has confidently announced that it will have features that goes well beyond ALQ-99.
As such, it can be realized that in the near future, US Navy EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft will continue to expand their advantage over enemy air defense missile systems, including the S-400 Triumf. To overcome the pair of EA-18G Growler and ALQ-249, the opponent will need to be equipped with ultra-long range air defense systems combined with extremely dense reconnaissance network to have the chance to fight back.
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