Last updated: 17 Sep 2021
The EA-18G Growler is a variant in the F/A-18 family of aircraft that combines the proven F/A-18F Super Hornet platform with a sophisticated electronic warfare suite. Built to replace the EA-6B Prowler, the Growler is the first newly-designed electronic warfare aircraft produced in more than 35 years. The aircraft also retains all of the F/A-18E/F’s multi-mission capabilities with its validated design and the capability to perform a wide range of enemy defense suppression missions.
Within the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy is the Growler’s sole operator, although the EA-18G is cooperatively operated with the Royal Australian Air Force. There is significant interest from current and potential International Partners in the EA-18G as well.
The EA-18G Growler, an Airborne Electronic Attack aircraft, integrates the latest electronic attack technology, including the ALQ-218 receiver, ALQ-99 tactical jamming pods, ALQ-227 Communication Countermeasures Set, and Joint Tactical Terminal – Receiver (JTT-R) satellite communications. The AN/ALQ-249, the Next Generation Jamming Pod, is in final development and will be the successor for the long serving ALQ-99 pods.
Along with the electronic attack suite, the Growler also features the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. EA-18G Growler, an Airborne Electronic Attack aircraft integrates the latest electronic attack technology, including the ALQ-218 receiver, ALQ-99 jamming pods, communication countermeasures, and satellite communications. The AN/ALQ-249, the Next Generation Jamming Pod, is in final development and will be the successor for the long serving ALQ-99 pods.
Along with the electronic attack suite, the Growler also features the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
The first Growler test aircraft went into production in October 2004 and made its first flight in August 2006.
The extensive commonality between the F/A-18E/F and the EA-18G Growler, as well as its flexible platform, gives the Growler much-needed room for future upgrades and growth.
The first production aircraft was delivered June 3, 2008, to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, the Growler Fleet Replacement Squadron, at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island in Washington. Initial operational capability and full rate production followed in fall 2009. In 2010, three squadrons, VAQ-132, 141 and 138, transitioned from the Prowler to the Growler and were declared safe-for-flight.
In the last fifteen years, the EA-18G Growler has spanned the globe in support of all major and rapid reaction action. The Growler’s first baptism of fire came with Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya 2011.
Five U.S. Navy Expeditionary VAQ squadrons uniquely support U.S. Air Force and Navy shore-based operations. All EA-18G squadrons are stationed at NAS Whidbey Island, with the exception of one squadron (VAQ-141) attached to CVW-5, Forward Deployed Naval Force, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
The Growler Capability Modification (GCM) Program, the first major effort to upgrade EA-18G capabilities in the history of the program, commenced at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, in March 2021. The multi-year program is comprised of various engineering change proposals across several of the aircraft’s systems in common with the F/A-18E/F Block III. GCM will also provide the warfighter with a significant leap in electronic warfare capability to improve combat support for the Joint U.S. and Allied forces, which includes integration of the Next Generation Jammer-Mid Band.
Growler Block II (GB2) is currently in development and will include spiral (phase-based) improvements. GB2 Phase 1 will provide dramatic upgrades to aircraft processing and electronic warfare algorithms, alongside additional upgrades like the Advanced Cockpit System. These enhancements to the Airborne Electronic Attack suite will enable the EA-18G to outpace current threats and maintain the lead throughout its planned lifecycle.
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