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EA-18G Growler
An EA-18G Growler of VX-31 overflies Ridgecrest, California as it returns to NAWS China Lake at the conclusion of a test mission
Role Electronic warfare
National origin United States
Manufacturer Boeing
First flight 15 August 2006
Introduction 22 September 2009[1]
Status In service
Primary users United States Navy
Royal Australian Air Force
Produced 2004–present
Number built 96[citation needed]
Unit cost
US$68.2 million (flyaway cost, FY2012)[2]
Developed from Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet

The Boeing EA-18G Growler is an American carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, a specialized version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet. The EA-18G will replace the Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers in service with the United States Navy. The Growler's electronic warfare capability is primarily provided by Northrop Grumman. The EA-18G began production in 2007 and entered operational service in late 2009.


Requirement and testing

The first EA-18G at the roll-out ceremony on 3 August 2006

On 15 November 2001, Boeing successfully completed an initial flight demonstration of F/A-18F "F-1" fitted with the ALQ-99 electronic-warfare system to serve as the EA-18 Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) concept aircraft.[3] In December 2003, the US Navy awarded a development contract for the EA-18G.[1][4] In 2003, the Navy expected to receive 90 EA-18Gs.[5]

The first EA-18G test aircraft entered production in 22 October 2004.[6] The first test aircraft, known as EA-1, was rolled out on 3 August 2006, before making its maiden flight at St. Louis on 15 August 2006; it was later ferried to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland on 22 September 2006.[7][8] EA-1 primarily supports ground testing in the Air Combat Environment Test and Evaluation Facility (ACETEF) anechoic chamber.

The second aircraft (EA-2) first flew on 10 November 2006,[9] and was delivered to NAS Patuxent River on 29 November 2006.[10] EA-2 is an AEA flight test aircraft, initially flying on Pax River's Atlantic Test Range (ATR) for developmental test of the AEA system before transitioning to the Electronic Combat Range (ECR, or 'Echo Range') in Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California. Both aircraft are assigned to VX-23 "Salty Dogs". EA-1 and EA-2 are F/A-18Fs F-134 and F-135, pulled from the St. Louis production line and modified by Boeing to the EA-18G configuration. However, since they were not built initially as Growlers, the Navy has designated these two test aircraft as NEA-18Gs.[11] There were five Growlers flying in the flight test program as of June 2008.[12]


An EA-18G Growler alongside an EA-6B Prowler shortly after arriving at NAS Whidbey Island, 9 April 2007.

In an April 2006 report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office expressed concerns. The GAO felt the electronic warfare systems on the EA-18G were not fully mature so there is risk of "future cost growth and schedule delays". The report recommended that the DOD consider purchasing additional ICAP III upgrades for EA-6Bs to fill any current and near-term capability gaps and restructure the initial EA-18G production plans so that procurement takes place after the aircraft has "demonstrated full functionality".[13] In a 2008 GAO report, the director of the DoD's Operational Test and Evaluation department questioned the workload on the two-person Growler crew to replace the Prowler's crew of four.[14]

The U.S Navy has ordered a total of 57 aircraft to replace its existing EA-6B Prowlers in service, all of which will be based at NAS Whidbey Island save for Reserve Squadron VAQ-209 based at NAF Washington, MD. The US DoD gave approval for the EA-18G program to begin low-rate initial production in 2007.[15] The EA-18G was scheduled to finish flight testing in 2008.[16] The Navy planned to buy approximately 85 aircraft in 2008.[17] Approval for full-rate production was expected in the third quarter of 2009,[18] and was given on 23 November 2009. Boeing will ramp up production to 20 aircraft per year.[19] On 9 July 2009, General James Cartwright told the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services that the choice had been to continue the F/A-18 production line because the war fighting commanders needed more aerial electronic warfare capability that only the EA-18G could provide.[20]

An EA-18G Growler of VAQ-129 "Vikings" takes off in afterburner from OLF Coupeville air field.

The Navy's submission for the 2011 defense budget put forth by the Obama Administration calls for four EA-18G Growler squadrons to be added to the fleet.[21] On 14 May 2010, Boeing and the US Department of Defense reached an agreement for a multi-year contract for an additional 66 F/A-18E/Fs and 58 EA-18Gs over the next four years. This will raise the total to 114 EA-18Gs on order.[22]

The Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation determined that the EA-18G was "still not operationally suitable" in February 2011. Prime contractor Boeing is working to address issues with software updates.[23] In December 2011, Operational Test and Evaluation concluded that the EA-18G software was "operationally effective and suitable".[24]


An EA-18G Growler (BuNo 166856) of test and evaluation squadron VX-9 Vampires, carrying an array of payload, including external fuel tanks and missiles

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 the traditional standoff jamming mission. Growlers will be able to accompany F/A-18s during all phases of an attack mission.[25] In order to give the Growler more stable flight for the electronic warfare mission, Boeing changed the leading edge fairings and wing fold hinge fairings, and added wing fences and aileron "tripper strips".[26]

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. Nine weapons stations remain free to provide for additional weapons or jamming pods.[27] The added electronics include AN/ALQ-218 wideband receivers on the wingtips, and ALQ-99 high and low-band tactical jamming pods. The ALQ-218 combined with the ALQ-99 form a full spectrum electronic warfare suite that is able to provide detection and jamming against all known surface-to-air threats.[25] However the current pods will be inadequate against emerging threats.[28]

The EA-18G can be fitted with up to five ALQ-99 jamming pods and will typically add two AIM-120 AMRAAM or AGM-88 HARM missiles.[29] The EA-18G will also use the INCANS Interference Cancellation system that will allow voice communication while jamming enemy communications, a capability not available on the EA-6B.[30] 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.[27]

The poor reliability of the ALQ-99 jammer pod and frequent failures of the Built In Test (BIT) have caused crew to fly missions with undetected faults. The ALQ-99 has also interfered with the aircraft's AESA radar, and has imposed a high workload on the two-man crew, along with reducing the Growler's top speed.[31]

Boeing is looking into other potential upgrades; the ALQ-99 radar jamming pod may be replaced in the future, and the company is looking into adding weapons and replacing the satellite communications receiver. The Growler is the initial platform for the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) which uses Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology to focus jamming power exactly where needed. The NGJ was to be implemented on the F-35.[32] However, in May 2012, the U.S. Navy decided to focus NGJ integration on the EA-18G for an expected in-service date of 2020, and defer work for the F-35.[33] Boeing is also looking at exporting a Growler Lite configuration without the jamming pods for electronic awareness rather than electronic attack.[34]

Operational history

United States

An EA-18G of VAQ-129 "Vikings" aligns itself for an at-sea landing aboard USS Ronald Reagan

The first Growler for fleet use was officially accepted by VAQ-129 "Vikings" at NAS Whidbey Island, on 3 June 2008.[17] The Navy planned to buy approximately 85 aircraft to equip 11 squadrons as of 2008.[17] The EA-18G completed operational evaluation in late July 2009. The Growler was rated operationally effective and suitable for operational use.[18][35] On 5 August 2009, EA-18G Growlers from Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) and Electronic Attack Squadron 132 (VAQ-132) completed their first at-sea carrier-arrested landing aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).[36] The first deployable EA-18G squadron is to be VAQ-132 "Scorpions", which reached operational status in October 2009.[37] The first Growler operational deployment was announced on 17 February 2011.[38]

EA-18G badge

In service, the EA-18's radio name during flight operations will be "Grizzly". The "Growler" nickname sounded too much like the EA-6B's "Prowler" name, so "Grizzly" will be used to avoid confusion.[39] With the termination of the EB-52H standoff jammer, the Growler will become the sole remaining manned tactical jammer and Air Staff requirements director Maj. Gen. David Scott has indicated that the USAF will seek to provide electronic warfare officers to fly on US Navy Growlers, without providing funding to purchase additional aircraft.[40] By May 2011, 48 Growlers had been delivered to the U.S. Navy.[27]

The EA-18G was first used in combat during Operation Odyssey Dawn, enforcing the UN no-fly zone over Libya.[41] Five EA-18Gs were redeployed from Iraq to support operations in Libya.[42]


In 2008 the Australian Government requested export approval from the US government to purchase up to six EA-18Gs,[43] which would be part of the order for 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets.[44] On 27 February 2009, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced that 12 of the 24 Super Hornets on order would be wired on the production line for future fit-out as EA-18Gs. The additional wiring would cost A$35 million. The final decision on conversion to EA-18Gs, at a cost of A$300 million, was to be announced in March 2012.[45][46]

On 23 August 2012, the Australian Government announced that 12 RAAF Super Hornets would be fitted with Growler capability at a cost of $1.5 billion;[47] making the Royal Australian Air Force the only military other than the U.S. to operate the Growler's electronic jamming equipment.[48]

On 3 May 2013, the Australian Government announced that it will buy 12 new-build Growlers to supplement the existing Super Hornet fleet.[49]


An EA-18G Growler of VAQ-141 "Shadowhawks" on the flight deck of USS George H.W. Bush

United States

Boeing EA-18G Growler on Final to OLF Coupeville/Naval Outlying Field Coupeville

Specifications (EA-18G Growler)

Data from Boeing brochure,[52] U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F fact file[53]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two
  • Length: 60 ft 1.25 in (18.31 m)
  • Wingspan: 44 ft 8.5 in (13.62 m) (including wingtip-mounted pods)
  • Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
  • Wing area: 500 ft² (46.5 m²)
  • Empty weight: 33,094 lb (15,011 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 48,000 lb (21,772 kg) ; recovery weight
  • Max. takeoff weight: 66,000 lb (29,964 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 14,000 lbf (62.3 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 22,000 lbf (97.9 kN) each
  • Internal fuel capacity: 13,940 lb (6,323 kg)
  • External fuel capacity: (3 x 480 gal tanks): 9,774 lb (4,420 kg)


  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.8[53] (1,190 mph, 1,900 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
  • Range: 1,275 nmi (2,346 km); clean plus two AIM-9s[53]
  • Combat radius: 390 nmi (449 mi, 722 km); for interdiction mission[54]
  • Ferry range: 1,800 nmi(2,070 mi, 3,330 km); range without ordnance
  • Service ceiling: >50,000 ft (15,000 m)
  • Wing loading: 92.8 lb/ft² (453 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.93


  • Guns: None
  • Hardpoints: 9 total: 6× under-wing, and 3× under-fuselage with a capacity of 17,750 lb (8,050 kg) external fuel and ordnance
  • Notes: The two wingtips missile launcher rail for AIM-9 Sidewinder, found on the E/F Super Hornet, have been replaced with AN/ALQ-218 detection pods, six removable under wing mounted hard points (inboard pylons will carry 480 gal fuel tanks, mid-board pylons will carry AN/ALQ-99 High Band Jamming Pods, and outboard pylon reserved for AGM-88 HARM missiles), two multi-mode conformal fuselage stations (AIM-120 AMRAAM), 1 centerline fuselage removable hardpoint, for AN/ALQ-99 Low Band Jamming Pod.
    • Weapons employment: Currently, Phase I of the Growler will carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM for self-protection at the two conformal fuselage stations and AGM-88 HARM missiles. The A/A-49A-2 gun system with the 20 mm M61A1 cannon has been removed and replaced by a pod of electronic boxes that control the AN/ALQ-218 and assist with the coordination AN/ALQ-99 jamming attacks.
    • According to the possible weapon configurations which were revealed, EA-18G would also be capable of performing "time-sensitive" strike missions, carrying AGM-154 JSOW under wings, or multi-sensor reconnaissance missions with SHARP and AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR on centerline and left conformal weapon stations, respectively.


See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 "EA-18G achieves Initial Operational Capability." U.S. Navy, 2 December 2009.
  2. "Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 President's Budget Submission: Navy Justification Book Volume 1 Aircraft Procurement, Navy Budget Activities 1–4", p. 1-1. U.S. Department of Defense, February 2012. Retrieved: 24 March 2012.
  3. "Boeing Successfully Completes Initial Flight Demonstration of EA-18 Airborne Electronic Attack Variant." Boeing, 15 November 2001. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  4. "Navy Awards Boeing $9.6 Billion in Super Hornet and EA-18G Contracts." Boeing, 29 December 2003. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  5. "Next Generation Jammer.", 9 October 2003.
  6. "Boeing Begins Work on First EA-18G Test Aircraft." Boeing, 21 October 2004. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  7. "Boeing rolls out first EA-18G Growler." Boeing, 4 August 2006.
  8. "Boeing Flies EA-18G Growler for First Time." Boeing, 16 August 2006.
  9. "Second Boeing EA-18G Growler Takes to the Air." Boeing. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  10. "Boeing Delivers Second EA-18G Growler to U.S. Navy." Boeing. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  11. Parsch, Andreas. "DOD 4120.15-L – Addendum.", 8 July 2008. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  12. Delivers 1st Fleet EA-18G Growler." Boeing. 4 June 2008.]
  13. "GAO-06-446, 'Option of Upgrading Additional EA-6Bs Could Reduce Risk in Development of EA-18G'." Government Accountability Office, April 2006. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  14. GAO-08-467SP "Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs." GAO, 31 March 2008.
  15. Fabey, Michael. "Growler passes Milestone C, goes to low-rate initial production" (log-in required). Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, 19 July 2007.
  16. "Boeing Delivers First Production EA-18G Growler to U.S. Navy." Boeing, 25 September 2007.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 "Navy Welcomes New Era of Electronic Warfare." US Navy, 4 June 2008.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Fulghum, David A. "Classified Tests Show Growler Ready for Ops." Aviation Week, 6 August 2009.
  19. "Boeing EA-18G Growler to Advance to Full Rate Production." Boeing, 30 November 2009. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  20. "Cartwright Talks F-22, Advocates JROC Changes." Retrieved: 29 August 2012.
  21. "Navy budget includes 9 ships, kills CG(X).", February 2010. Retrieved: 29 August 2012.
  22. Trimble, Stephen. "US DoD agrees to buy 124 F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18Gs over 4 years." Flightglobal, 14 May 2010. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  23. Fabey, Michael. "U.S. Navy, Pentagon Debate EA-18G Growler." Aviation Week, 3 February 2011. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  24. "Selected Acquisition Report (SAR), EA-18G." DOD, 31 December 2011. Retrieved: 9 August 2012.
  25. 25.0 25.1 "EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack Aircraft." Boeing. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  26. Croft, John. "EA-18G “Growler”: New platform and capabilities set to un-level the SEAD playing field." Flight International, 8 July 2008.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 "EA-18G Growler overview." Boeing. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  28. Thompson, Loren B. "Navy Steps Up New Jammer Effort; First New System in 40 Years." Aol Defense, 26 July 2012.
  29. "Navy Awards Boeing $9.6 billion in Super Hornet and EA-18G Contracts." Boeing, 29 December 2003.
  30. "Boeing EA-18G Program Completes INCANS Verification Testing, Demonstration." Boeing, 8 November 2005.
  31. "Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs." U.S. Government Accountability Office, 30 March 2010. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  32. "Next Generation Jammer." Retrieved: 29 August 2012.
  33. "US Navy Next Generation Jammer proceeds, but F-35 integration deferred indefinitely." Flightglobal, 11 May 2012.
  34. Doyle, Andrew. "Aero India: Boeing reveals plans for 'Growler Lite'." Flight International, 13 February 2009. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  35. Fein, Geoff. "EA-18G Given High Marks In OPEVAL, Boeing Says" (log in required). Defense Daily, 4 August 2009.
  36. Evans, Mark L. and Dale J. Gordon. "Year in Review 2009." Naval Aviation News, Volume 94, Issue 2, 0028–1417, Summer 2010, p. 24. Retrieved: 12 October 2010.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "VAQ-132 Becomes First Operational Growler Squadron Safe for Flight." U.S. Navy, 8 October 2009.
  38. "Boeing EA-18G Growlers Deployed by US Navy.", 17 February 2011.
  39. "New ops nickname for EA-18G.", 9 June 2009.
  40. Tirpak, John A. "Seeking Growler Backseat, No BUFF SOJ.", 20 October 2009. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  41. Spencer Ackerman (21 March 2011). "In Combat Debut, Navy Jammer Targets Libyan Tanks". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 12 March 2013. "Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told the media on Sunday that the EA-18G Growler, a Boeing production, provided electronic warfare support to the coalition’s attacks on Libya. That’s the first combat mission for the Growler, which will replace the Navy’s Prowler jamming fleet." 
    "Growlers in Action Only 48 Hours After Libya Notification". Sea Power Magazine. Navy League of the United States. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  42. "Roughead: Ships Were Ready for Odyssey Dawn." American Forces Press Service (US Navy), 23 March 2011.
  43. Dodd, Mark. "RAAF likes the sound of the Growler." The Australian, 15 August 2008. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  44. Kelly, Emma. "Australia expands P-3 upgrade, plays down Growler reports." Flight International, 22 August 2008. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  45. "Super Hornets Wired For Future Upgrade." Australian Department of Defence, 27 February 2009.
  46. McPhedran, Ian. "$200m refit to give fighter jets growl." The Advertiser, 22 February 2012.
  47. "Super Hornets to get electronics jammer." ABC Online, 23 August 2012.
  48. "Australia fighter jets first to get hi-tech U.S. jammers." MSNBC, 23 August 2012.
  49. Taylor, Ellis. "Canberra commits to new Growlers, but remains coy on F-35s." Flight, 3 May 2013.
  50. "Air Force EWO graduates from Navy Growler training." Retrieved: 29 August 2012.
  51. Janik, Cmdr. Scott. "Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135 Black Ravens’ newly painted EA-18G Growler ‘520’ flies alongside Mt. Baker." Northwest Navigator, 28 July 2011. Retrieved: 29 August 2012.
  52. "EA-18G Capabilities." Boeing. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 "F/A-18 fact file." U.S. Navy, 26 May 2009.
  54. "F/A-18 Hornet." Retrieved: 15 July 2011.


  • Thomason, Tommy H. Strike from the Sea: U.S. Navy Attack Aircraft from Skyraider to Super Hornet, 1948 – present. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-58007-132-1.

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