Year of the ‘Growler’ EA-18G

Two US Navy EA-18G ‘Growlers’ in formation

The Super Hornets of No 1 Squadron will soon share the skies over Ipswich with a new combat aircraft variant, the EA-18G ‘Growler’ assigned to No 6 Squadron. Aircrews and ground crews are now training in the United States to operate and maintain the ‘Growler’, and will begin ferrying them home to Amberley soon.

The RAAF is buying twelve Growlers, which are highly modified Super Hornet airframes, and when in full operational service early next decade, Australia will have the only tactical Airborne Electronic Attack Capability in the world outside the United States.

In RAAF service it will work with other Defence Force assets, such as the Navy’s new Air Warfare Destroyers and Army’s combat units to identify, jam and when necessary, destroy enemy radar and communications systems.

Electronic Attack (EA) is the offensive suppression of an adversary’s electromagnetic spectrum, primarily radar and communications. systems.

In today’s technologically dependent air combat environment, denial of those systems would seriously impede an adversary’s ability to function effectively. In warfare, information is everything; you can’t defend against what you don’t know or can’t see.

The EA-18G is one of the few aircraft types capable of operating in a high threat environment. Growlers aim to roll back the adversary’s air defenses. They achieve this through Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) – firing the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles at emitting enemy radars), airspace dominance, and rapid reaction support (jamming).

In an air combat situation, the enemy’s Early Warning systems provide tracking info to targeting systems, and they pass this information down to the shooters (defending aircraft and ground-based missiles primarily). If this information pathway is interrupted by EW, target engagement becomes far more difficult.

At Amberley, 6 Squadron will be working towards an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) planned for mid-2018.