Navy steps up electronic attack game with Growler

The full-spectrum aircraft boosts the service’s capabilities as electronic warfare becomes more important.

Navy EA-18G Growler

The Navy continues to expand its electronic warfare capabilities with the arrival of its 100th EA-18G Growler, the newest and most capable of its electronic attack aircraft. The Growler, made by Boeing, is a variation of the Block II F/A-18F Super Hornet and has a full-spectrum sensor and Next Generation Jammer capable of pre-emptive and reactive jamming.

 “The EA-18G Growler is a high-demand asset that is equally critical in disrupting our enemies’ operations as it is enhancing our own,” Capt. Frank Morley, program manager for the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office, said during an unveiling at Boeing, according to the Navy.

Its range of electronic attack capabilities include suppression of enemy air defenses, stand-off and escort jamming, non-traditional electronic attacks (integrating with ground defenses), and the ability to identify targets for other aircraft, Boeing said.

The Growler, which operates from either a land base or aircraft carrier, is equipped with Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and is the only aircraft with full-spectrum capability. Its wideband receiver and the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System make it effective against any against any surface-to-air threat guided by radar, Boeing said.

The elements of electronic warfare have been important for as long as there have been radios and radar, but its significance is growing with the increased reliance of the electromagnetic spectrum. More manned and unmanned systems are integrated in the air, on the ground and at sea, making reliable communications paramount. The Defense Department recently updated its electronic warfare policy, defining it as “a cross-cutting capability” that must be integrated into the full range of military operations.

With the Growler, the Naval Air Systems Command is getting significant offensive and defensive improvements over its predecessor, the EA-6B Prowler, the Navy said.

“NAVAIR is continuing to advance the capabilities of the Growler as the U.S. Navy’s electronic attack mission becomes more robust and potential adversaries up their game with increasingly lethal air defenses,” Morley said.

The EA-18G program was started in 2003, with the First Growler arriving in 2006. The Navy expects the aircraft to be in service beyond 2040.