THE GROWLER
Flight Journal|March - April 2021
Boeing’s electronic attack weapon
TED CARLSON
Unarguably, the EA-6B Prowler has been a solid performer in its niche role of Electronic Attack (EA) over the years. The aging Prowler was tired, it now has been put out to pasture, and its replacement has made its debut in the form of the Boeing EA-18G Growler. It looks a bit like the F/A18F Super Hornet on steroids, with unique wingtip pods that house secretive electronic gear. The primary role of the EA-18G is much different than that of a traditional Super Hornet, however. The Growler is contemporary, more reliable, and more capable than its predecessor. However, one cannot tell the Growler story without also bringing the successful Prowler to light and looking at where the EA-18G’s roots evolved.

The EA-18G

Based on the F/A-18F Super Hornet, the EA-18G has roughly 80 percent in common with the F-model Super Hornet with Northrup Grumman’s integrated mission electronics packages. The notable external differences include special wingtip pods, the addition of various fuselage and spine antennas, wing fences, and a different wing leading edge. EA-18Gs are all two-place aircraft, consisting of a pilot and back seat Naval Flight Officer, known as an Electronics Warfare Officer (EWO). The majority of the senior EWOs came from the Prowler communities since they are both seasoned and there has been an excess of ECMOs (Electronic Countermeasure Officers) within Prowler units during the aircraft transition. Pilots came from both the EA-6B and Super Hornet communities.

The Growler retains the state-of-the-art AN/APG-79 AESA radar and MIDS/LINK 16 of the Super Hornet, but the 20mm canon had to be removed to house additional electronics inside the gun bay. Based on the Growler’s mission, the likelihood of having to use the 20mm is slim, anyway. Other internal avionics bays around the jet have been stuffed with new electronics as well. The AESA radar, with its ground-mapping capability and coupled with the Growler’s electronic suite, brings robust tactical capabilities to the table. Using MIDS and EA18G Data Correlation Mechanization (EDCM), crews can view the map of the battlefield, electronic, ground, and air “orders of battle.” That information can also be disseminated to other assets in real time. The front and rear cockpits are physically identical to the F/A-18F but have additional specialized Growler menus the crew can toggle through for jamming, EA and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) roles.

The ALQ-99 jamming system is the Growler’s main weapon of choice, and only two types of aircraft (EA-18G and EA-6B) are compatible with the system and pods. The same AN/ALQ-218(V)2 ESM receivers that reside in the ICAP III EA6B’s “football” tail fairing was essentially relocated to the EA-18G wingtip pods and is proven, effective technology. The aircraft contains a Multi-mission Advanced Tactical Terminal system (MATT) that is a satellite communication and linking device. Another useful enhancement is the INCANS (Interference Cancellation System), essentially a system that allows the use of radios when a jamming system is employed.

Crews can fly using the JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System). The JHMCS provides excellent situational awareness, enhancing both air-to-air and air-to-ground information via a specialized helmet and visor. Pilots must fly a trio of JHMCS flights to become fully qualified on the system.

So, what were the advantages of the Prowler over the Growler? The only electronic system the Prowler has that the Growler doesn’t have is the USQ-113 communication jammer, but the Growler can employ one of the ALQ-99 pods for use in that role. In general, the Prowler (with its three ECMOs versus the EWO and pilot of the Growler) was more reactive due to the combined synergies of three individuals allowing for greater flexibility. However, there are some advantages of having fewer people, with one example being less chatter that may reduce confusion. With a smaller crew, Growler crew mission planning is much more important and is thus a greater emphasis is put on that stage of the mission.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FLIGHT JOURNALView All

SR-71 BLACKBIRD

Faster than a speeding bullet!

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
September - October 2021

RARE BEAR

The wrecked F8F-2 Bearcat that became Air Racing’s winningest Unlimited racer

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
September - October 2021

STRAIGHT WINGS VS. SWEPT WINGS

F-84 Thunderjets & MiG-15s over Korea

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
September - October 2021

The Sleeping Pilot

IN JULY OF 1943, it was the same as now: sunshine was a treasured commodity in Oxfordshire, England. So, even in the middle of a war, when the sun came out and the guns were quiet, young men would do the natural thing and enjoy it in the most natural of ways: with an afternoon nap. The war be damned.

1 min read
Flight Journal
September - October 2021

Mustang ACE of ACES - MAJOR GEORGE E. PREDDY

Squadron Leader Clive Rowley MBE RAF (Ret.), a former Royal Air Force fighter pilot, tells the story of USAAF fighter pilot and top-scoring Mustang ace George E. Preddy.

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
September - October 2021

P-51: The 18th Fighter Bomber Group

With thousands of late-model P-51s available at the end of WW II, the Mustang became the predominant airframe inactive and guard units into the 1950s until they were supplanted by jets.

1 min read
Flight Journal
September - October 2021

Fleet Finch

The classic WW II Canadian trainer

8 mins read
Flight Journal
September - October 2021

Impossible barriers are made to be broken

Few technologies have had such a rapid development and such a powerful impact on mankind as the invention of the airplane.

4 mins read
Flight Journal
March - April 2021

RAMPANT RAIDERS

April 25, 1967, VA-212 tests the A-4 to the limit

10 mins read
Flight Journal
March - April 2021

THE GROWLER

Boeing’s electronic attack weapon

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
March - April 2021
RELATED STORIES

East Meets West

KALYANI ADUSUMILLI grew up in a minority group in the United States, straddling cultures, learning how to fit in, and later learning how to accept the traditions of her heritage. Today, she is watching her children going through the same process, shifting their cultural identity, as they head toward adulthood in the melting pot of a multicultural society.

4 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
May 2022

EA SPORTS AND FIFA END PARTNERSHIP, BOTH EYE NEW VIDEO GAMES

Electronic Arts will stop making its hugely successful FIFA video game in its current name, marking a split in one of soccer’s most successful and lucrative partnerships after the sides failed to strike a new licensing deal.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
May 13, 2022

Living the Dream

Both family-friendly and perfect for entertaining, the forever home SoCal architect Chris Brandon designed for himself, wife, and kids marries modern design with old-world charm.

4 mins read
Ocean Home
April/May 2022

Chocolate Cake

This delicious recipe is the ideal way to serve up any leftover Easter eggs. If you have no leftover eggs, it’s the perfect excuse to buy a few more!

2 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
May 06, 2022

How Iron Levels in Maize Have Changed Over 2000 Years

According to a study by Ale Vidal Elgueta et al, researchers from Chile and France, the intensification of agricultural production over the past two millennia has led to a reduction in the level of iron in maize.

6 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
May 06, 2022

The Planet Was There Before Us and Will Be There After Us

DAAJI shares how caring for Mother Earth begins with eliminating thought pollution from the mind and nurturing the attitudes of love and reverence. When love and reverence are there, will we intentionally hurt anyone or anything, especially our Mother Earth?

6 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
April 2022

Good Mood Food

Easy recipes packed with greens, grains, nuts and oily fish are key to Khanya Mzongwana's feel-good eating plan this winter

10 mins read
Woolworths TASTE
May/June 2022

Tick All the Right Boxes

These contemporary design ideas prove that it's hip to be square!

3 mins read
Home South Africa
May/June 2022

Building Bridges

Amid ongoing cultural clashes about whether it's really necessary to learn and to talk about race (it is), one Austin woman's faith-based program brings dialogue and racial reconciliation to communities around the world.

9 mins read
The Oprah Magazine
Volume 2. No 2 - 2022

The Reluctant GALLERIST

How a rare book seller became an under-the-radar art world powerhouse.

2 mins read
Town & Country
April 2022