GEAR & TECH

Why the Growler is the king of electronic warfare

They say that in the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Well, in aerial combat, the fight goes to who has better situational awareness. So, how does the United States make sure they've got "eyes" on the enemy enough to remain on the throne? The United States does it two ways: First, they work to have better "eyes" through technology like the E-3. Second, they blind the other guy.


The United States Navy has just the plane to do the latter in the EA-18G Growler from Boeing. This plane replaced the EA-6B Prowler. Although both use the AN/ALQ-99 jamming system and the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), they are very different planes.

A US Navy (USN) EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron-133 (VAQ 133), out of Woodby Island, Washington, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, in support of exercise NORTHERN EDGE 2002. (DOD photo)

The EA-6B Prowler was based off the A-6 Intruder, a medium attack plane, and it shows in the plane's performance: It has a top speed of 652 miles per hour and a range of 2,022 miles. It could carry jamming pods or HARMs. The EA-6B served for over four decades before it was finally retired.

The EA-18G Growler, on the other hand, was based off the F/A-18F Super Hornet, a multi-role fighter. This means much better performance: It has a top speed of 1,181 miles per hour, a ceiling of over 50,000 feet, but a range of only 1,458 miles. Because it's based off a multi-role fighter, it carries more pylons. So it not only hauls jammer pods and HARMs, but external tanks for extended range, as well as AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles.

An E/A-18G Growler assigned to the Lancers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines)

In short, the Growler can really put an enemy's "eyes" out in more ways than one. Jammers can blind radars, while HARMs destroy key nodes in an air-defense system. The AMRAAMs are useful to deal with enemy fighters (in essence, allowing the Growler to "escort" itself) or they can kill an enemy radar plane, like the A-50 Mainstay.

Learn more about this plane in the video below.

 

(Dung Tran | YouTube)