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EA-18G Growlers Make Rare Group Appearance as the Ultimate Jamming Platforms

Generally, our Photo of the Day section is filled with images and details about fighter aircraft. Sure, we get the occasional bomber and tanker, but fighter jets, being the crème de la crème in military aviation, sure occupy a lot of our (and the USAF’s) attention.
EA-18G Growlers flying during exercise Southern Strike 9 photos
EA-18G Growlers flying during exercise Southern StrikeEA-18G GrowlerEA-18G GrowlerEA-18G GrowlerEA-18G GrowlerEA-18G GrowlerEA-18G GrowlerEA-18G Growler
Today we’re going a bit sideways with our coverage of airborne hardware and, taking advantage of one of the photos released as part of USAF’s Year in Photos coverage, we’re taking a closer look at something with a very complicated name.

That would be the EA-18G Growler, the “most advanced airborne electronic attack (AEA) platform and is the only one in production today” as its maker, Boeing, describes it. Having arrived onto the scene (first deployment) back in 2010 as a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, it’s a machine with a very specific mission.

Its goal is not to drop ordnance on enemy positions, as bombers do, or fight enemy aircraft, like fighter jets, but jam enemy technology and provide electronic protection to friendly forces. That means most of the time, it is the first one to go into combat, softening the resistance for subsequent strikes to destroy.

Some of the places on the aircraft that would otherwise be occupied by missiles and machine guns, like the plane’s gun bay and wing pods, house “selective, reactive and pre-emptive jamming capabilities.” It can however protect itself if need be, using an Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), various data links, and air-to-air missiles.

The plane is powered by two turbofan engines capable of developing 22,000 pounds each. It has a range of 850 nautical miles when armed with two AIM-120 missiles, three ALQ-99 electronic warfare systems, two AGM-88 HARM, and two 480 gallon external fuel tanks.

Under 200 of them are currently in operation, so seeing three of them at the same time is something of an event. The ones seen in the main photo of this piece are deployed with the Navy Reserve, and were taking part last year in exercise Southern Strike at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Editor's note: Gallery shows other Growlers.


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