I don't spend much time these days thinking about fighter jets, mainly because my day job is all about GA and business aircraft. But once in a while, a story catches my eye, and when I read about the kind of lethel flying machines my tax dollars are buying, it just blows my mind...in a good way. When you really look under the hood of the U.S. Navy's new EA-18G “Growler” Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Aircraft, it makes me very glad I am on the USA team and not the enemy's.
In researching Northrup Grumman/Boeing's Growler (gotta love that name, eh?), I came across a great article found here on military.com that really tells it like it is:
What happens when you take one of the U.S. Navy's fastest and most lethal strike aircraft and combine it with state-of-the-art electronic attack capabilities? Electronic warfare at supersonic speeds. The Growler's predecessor, the EA-6B Prowler, functioned as a protective umbrella, escorting fleet surface units and jamming any hostile radars or communications. The aging Prowler has been in service for 40 years, and is unable to keep up with newer strike aircraft.Now for 'Average Joe' Cessna/Piper drivers, a “jammed” signal usually means some clown has a stuck mic and all the guys/gals out there chasing their $100 hamburgers will have to suffer through a few annoying moments on the CTAF. But when the Growler jams a signal, it stays jammed, baby:
Chugging along at .72 Mach, it is significantly slower than the fleet aircraft it's meant to protect, like an elderly grandfather on Halloween escorting trick-or-treaters on a sugar high.The EA-18G is built off the existing F/A-18 Super Hornet airframe, and is capable of Mach 1.8, as fast as any contemporary strike aircraft.
The Growler will use an arsenal of state-of-the-art EW systems to jam your radars, suppress your defenses, and cause general disorientation and havoc. A triumvirate of electronic warfare systems have been integrated into the Growler, making it capable of jamming a large amount of radar threats. On top of this, enemy aircraft will have no idea where the attack is coming from. This is the sinister work of computer-controlled jamming pods, installed on five of the 11 external hardpoints of the EA-18G. These ALQ-99 pods, the Growler's primary EW weapons, are smart little suckers. They automatically detect and classify a radar's electronic energy, and determine the exact signal strength required to shut it down.What I find completely amazing about fighter jets is that if this is the stuff the DoD puts out there for public consumption, you just have to know there is a bunch of really nasty things the Growler will do that is, um, classified. It'd be pretty one-sided if Iran's handful of “previously flown” F14 and Su-25s – at least the ones that are reported to be still airworthy – ever gets into it with the Growler, because it'll be like shooting ducks in a barrel. Once the EA-18 is locked on, the bogey won't be able to key his mic long enough to yell “HOLY SHIT” in his last few seconds before vaporization occurs.
The Growler, which is scheduled to enter service in 2008...is Air Superiority, redefined. Grrrrrrr....