If IAF were to Get EA-18G Growlers, Our Enemies would be Groping in the Dark


The EA-18G Growler is an electronic attack aircraft. It is capable of disrupting, deceiving or denying a broad range of military electronic systems, including radars and communications.

It is no secret that Hornets hunt better when accompanied with tactical jammers. Incidentally, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is building its own High Band Jammer (HBJ) since long. But having a full aircraft devoted to jamming takes tactical warfare to an entirely different level. Now nations don’t come around to making such aircraft all of a sudden. Rather there is decades of R & D to fall back on from which programmes like E/A-18G Growler germinate. America’s forays into arriving at a perfect jammer have seen them make likes of EA-6A, EA-6B Prowler, EF-111A Raven to finally produce Growler, quite recently. My point is if we acquire some Growlers with Super Hornets, not only do we have a deadly pair for war, but even in peacetime, continuous fiddling with a high class jammer can propell our engineers to make our own next generation homegrown jammers.

Further ahead, Boeing is looking to upgrade the Growler. The ALQ-99 radar jamming pod may be replaced by 2020 with the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) which uses AESA technology to focus jamming power exactly where needed. Even that will perfectly fit the acquisition schedule for MMRCA 2.0 if US Govt could be convinced to share the technology with us, given that a clear India-US alliance is emerging in the world affairs.

UTILITY OF F/A-18G Growler :

Tactical Strike Aircrafts like F/A-18 Super Hornets are often up against air defences equipped with extensive radar and communications jamming equipment. While they can defeat individual hostile weapons like a Surface to Air Missile (SAM) using their on-board radar warning receivers (RWR) and defence jammers (ECM), the defending side has the advantage of seeing the big picture and thus concentrating its SAMs, radar directed guns (AAA) and fighter resources to maximum effect.

Firing multiple SAMs at a single aircraft can and often will saturate the crew and jammers of F/A-18 Hornet thus increasing the likelihood of a kill. On the other hand, if it has a E/A-18G Growler flying in tow, the latter will most easily destroy the advantage of defending side by high power jamming of their Acquisition and Ground Control Intercept (GCI) radars and associated communications network.

Now E/A-18G Growler carrying expensive equipment and still more expensive to train operators, is itself a lucrative target for the enemy. Therefore it also must have an ability to evade SAMs and fighters at least as good as but preferably better than the base F/A-18 Hornet it is derived from. Growler has the two wingtip missile launcher rails for AIM-9 Sidewinder, outboard pylon reserved for AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles, and provision to carry two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles at multi-mode conformal fuselage stations. Thus Growler quite ingeniously adds formidable air superiority to already robust strike capability of F/A-18 Super Hornet.

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The Growler has more than 90% in common with the standard Super Hornet, sharing airframe, Raytheon AN/APG-79 AESA radar and weapon systems such as the AN/AYK-22 stores management system. Most of the dedicated airborne electronic attack equipment is mounted in the space that used to house the internal 20 mm cannon and on the wingtips.

The Growler has 9 weapon stations in all. So it can be fitted with up to five ALQ-99 jamming pods and will typically add two AIM-120 AMRAAM or AGM-88 HARM missiles. The remaining two stations can be used for conformal fuel tanks. Conformal fuel tanks are a necessity because a Growler is penalised in radius performance and unlike strike aircraft it cannot shed 4000 to 12000 lb of weight (ordnance) over the target if the going gets tough.

The EA-18G also uses INCANS Interference Cancellation System that will allow voice communication while jamming enemy communications. In addition, the Growler possesses a communications receiver and jamming system that will provide suppression and electronic attack against airborne communication threat

In addition to the radar warning and jamming equipment, the Growler possesses a communications receiver and jamming system that will provide suppression and electronic attack against airborne communication threats.

The ALQ-99 offers several noise/spot-noise jamming modes and have other capabilities such as false target generation. In terms of management, ALQ-99 can be operated in three primary modes. Automatic, where the AN/ALQ-218 detects threats, the computer sorts them and the jammers jam them. Semi-automatic, where the operator selects and controls the jammers, and Manual, where the operators also identify and prioritise threats.


The Growler’s flight performance is similar to that of the F/A-18E/F. This attribute enables the Growler to perform escort jamming as well as traditional stand-off jamming.

On Primary Jamming Missions, EA-18G Growlers fly as escort jammers with deep penetration strike aircrafts like F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. Typically the aircraft all penetrate using TFR at very low level and hopefully undetected. As the strike aircraft approach the radar horizon of the target’s area defences, the E/A-18G Growlers would pop up to several thousand feet and jam any radars which would be considered a threat, while the strike aircraft pound the target from tree top altitude.

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In stand-off missions, the EA-18G Growlers would operate at a distance from the battle front and snow enemy’s long range surveillance radars from probing for our AWACS and other such aircrafts.

Three Growlers networked together can generate targeting tracks for hostile radio-frequency sources in real time. Utilising faster data-links the Growler could use its EW pods to accurately locate signal sources. In a group of three planes, when one detects a signal from a source such as a cell-phone, the other two can also listen for the same signal, all three measuring the amount of time taken for transmissions to travel from the source to each aircraft to triangulate the location in a very very small area. By early 2015, the US Navy had demonstrated this concept using EA-18s equipped with Rockwell Collins’ tactical targetting network technology (TTNT) and ALQ-18 receivers to acquire emissions from a target vessel and target it from a stand-off range without using their own detectable radar emissions.


High performance tactical jamming aircraft are a necessary part of any major air power and represent the most effective means of disrupting the control of the enemy’s defensive system. Once that has occurred the individual SAM and AAA systems have no means of coordinating and concentrating their fire on specific targets. This renders them essentially ineffective when confronted by the on-board defensive jammers of the attacking strike aircraft. Thus EA-18G Growlers can prove to be of immense significance to Indian Air Force.

Even in itself, an F/A-18 Super Hornet will prove a unique platform of continuous air dominance for years to come. It is designed to operate in and adept between air-to-air and air-to-ground missions during the same sortie. AN/APG-79 AESA radar, Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared pod (ATFLIR), AN/ALQ-67V(3) radar warning receiver, and AN/ALE-50 Towed Decoy System together provide Super Hornet improved situational awareness, pin-point accuracy, increased survivability and advanced capabilities in the challenging air battles that Indian Air Force is poised to see in the 21st century. In my view, IAF must have a look at it if the aircraft is offered for a competitive price and even consider EA-18G Growler for acquisition.






Source:- Global Defence Watch

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