The EA-18G is a potent offensive asset as a result of the aircraft platform it’s built on. However, equipment jamming is the aircraft’s primary use, broken up into electronic attack (EA) and suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) missions. It’s a uniquely valuable aerial asset in hostile engagement, and routinely accompanies forward strike forces to disorient and defuse enemy infrastructure.
The aircraft is flown by a crew of two: One pilot and an accompanying “weapons systems officer.” The Growler has a wing span of 44.9 feet, and a length of 60.2 feet, standing 16 feet off the ground. The two F414-GE-400 engines produce a thrust force of 44,000 pounds. Growlers can reach an altitude ceiling of 50,000 feet, and cover a combat range of about 975 miles when fully loaded.
The Growler replaced a battle-tested aircraft that lent its service over Somalia, Bosnia, and elsewhere. The EA-6B Prowler could only reach a height of 38,000 feet, but had an improved range of 2,400 miles. The Grumman-built Prowler first served in Vietnam, and eventually was retired in 2019. The newer Growler first entered U.S. Navy service in 2006 with two test aircraft, and performed its first combat operations in 2011 during Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya.
The Growler is a massive improvement over its predecessor: producing more thrust and speed, carrying offensive weaponry alongside jamming equipment, and utilizing a newer, versatile range of EA and SEAD tools beyond the ALQ-99 pods common to both.