Days After China Displays Electronic Warfare Fighter Jet, US OKs EA-18G Growler EW Aircraft For Australia

The US government has given its tentative approval for Australia to purchase a single EA-18G Growler aircraft with engineering and maintenance services costing $125 million, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced.

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Australia of EA-18G Growler aircraft, related defense services and related equipment for an estimated cost of $125 million,” the DSCA said in a statement on Thursday.

The agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of the possible sale on Thursday, the statement said.

“The Government of Australia has requested to buy a United States Navy (USN) EA-18G aircraft. The USN EA-18G aircraft will then be modified into a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) EA-18G aircraft configuration. The sale would include one EA-18G Growler aircraft,” the statement added.

The total estimated value is $125 million and the proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States, according to the statement.

Earlier, China’s J-16D Electronic Warfare aircraft made its first public appearance at the Zhuhai Airshow, equipped with dual jamming pods. This led aviation experts to draw comparisons between China’s J-16D and the US’ EA-18G Growler.

EA-18 Growler

The EA-18 Growler is an EW aircraft manufactured by US defense giant Boeing. The Growler is a derivative of the F/A-18 Super Hornet. The Growler with a length of 18.3m, a height of 4.9m, and a wingspan of 13.7m can cruise at top speeds of 1,960 KMPH and boasts a service ceiling of 50,000 feet.

EA-18G Growler
A US Navy EA-18G Growler. (Wikipedia)

The aircraft was developed to counter adversaries by offering tactical jamming capabilities besides offering land and naval defense against the hostile EW system. This is accomplished via two Northrop Grumman ALQ-218(V)2 wingtip pods that have a wideband receiver and selective reactive jamming capability.

An overview of electronic warfare and other systems found on the EA-18G Growler.

The Growler is armed with two AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs) and two AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. The commissioning of the EA-18 Growlers commenced in 2009 and is currently in use by the US Navy.

J-16D EW Aircraft

The J-16D is a home-grown Chinese EW aircraft based on the twin-seater J-16 fighter platform, which in turn is a version of the Russian Su-27.

What makes the J-16D different from the J-16 fighter jet are the two massive EW pods outfitted on the aircraft’s wings. These EW pods are intended to disrupt and block the adversary’s EW and also include systems meant to counter enemy radars and communication systems.

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The J-16D with the radar-jamming pod on its wingtips. (via Twitter)

Enhanced avionics and home-grown engines have reportedly been equipped on the J-16D and the aircraft has also undergone structural changes, which includes composite materials.

While the specification of the aircraft’s EW suite is secret, the wingtip pods seen on the EA-18 Growler form part of that aircraft’s internal AN/ALQ-218 system. This complete suite incorporates a radar warning receiver, electronic support measures, and electronic intelligence functionality. 

These features give the Growler the capability to identify, characterize, and geolocate hostile radars. Moreover, it would aid in data accumulation on enemy signals.

The US Navy is reportedly exploring newer EW pods for its EA-18G Growler as part of its Next Generation Jammer (NGI) program. Having an assortment of pods optimized for various frequency bands offers a variety of attack options catering to a multitude of EW threats and systems. 

There is also speculation that like EA-18G, the J-16D too would eventually be able to directly launch offensives on emitters using anti-radiation missiles. Top brass at USAF attending the annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference cited EW being an area where China is looking to increase both size and level of sophistication of its inventory. 

  • Nitin holds a double master’s degree in Journalism and Business Management (MBA) from The University of Glasgow, UK. He has over 15 years of global experience in Marketing & Communications, Journalism, and Digital Marketing and widely worked & traveled across Europe, the Americas, and Asia. CONTACT: 
  • With Inputs From Sputnik News Agency
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