ea-18g-growler-in-flight-ea18gvx3129-1354725733CAPITOL HILL: After several years of appearing to dislike the F-35C, or at least appearing lukewarm to buying it, the Navy today finally revealed why it wants to buy more F-18Gs from Boeing.

Basically, it all boils down to the fact that the F-18G, known as the Growler, emits a broader set of electronic warfare frequencies than does the F-35, Rear Adm. Michael Manazir,  told reporters after today’s House Armed Services air and land force subcommittee hearing. The two planes flying together are a much more effective strike package, according to Navy analysis, than either one flying on its own. The F-18G “supplements and complements” the F-35, he said. In fact, Manazir said the new planes were not needed for strictly naval missions but for joint forces, including fighting alongside our allies.


The F-35 is targeted against a narrower array of frequencies and emits only in a fairly narrow swath in front of the aircraft, according to Manazir. (The F-35 is the only US aircraft designed to defeat the most advanced Russian anti-aircraft systems such as the S-400 so the guess is that the JSF emits in frequencies designed to confuse and disable the radar systems that feed those.) The Growler can engage in electronic warfare not only as it flies forward but continues to emit even after it begins to return to base. I asked Manazir whether the F-18’s lack of stealth meant the Growler would have to fly separately and far behind the stealthy F-35, but he said the Growler generates enough power to blanket the area ahead of the F-35s so they can act in a complementary fashion.

Manazir said the Navy has determined that using EA–18Gs reduces the length of a “campaign and increases our effectiveness,” good reasons to buy the aircraft. And this is with the current Growler, not ones that will use the Next Generation Jammer. Those aircraft, he said, would be even more capable.

The Navy, as my colleague Andrea Shalal at Reuters has reported, wants an additional 22 Growlers and put them in its unfounded requirements list, which is presently in the hands of the Office of Secretary of Defense. Now we know why. It wasn’t a conspiracy hatched by an ever-hungry Boeing and a Navy that didn’t really want the F-35C. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the subcommittee’s ranking member, raised the issue during the hearing and said she would have to consider Manazir’s remarks before making any commitments about the Navy’s unfunded requirement. It would, of course, require both Armed Services authorizers and appropriators to approve the new planes.

Why it took the Navy so long to discuss this and lay to rest the many rumors that have floated about the real reasons the service wanted more Growlers is another question, one I can’t answer.





  • TerryTee

    I sure hope they get the “Growlers” they need. This is also the 1st time that the Limited capability of the ” Junk Strike Fighters ” electronic counter measures is publicly discussed. Something other Services and buyers should pay very close attention too.

    • GaryLockhart

      How many ATOs have you executed in a Prowler providing SEAD for F-117s, F-22s or B-2s, Terry?

      • Gary Church

        Why don’t you stop trying to shut everyone down? This is an open forum, not a place for the office bully to flex his biceps. If you have something to say then say it. But it seems all you can do is ask questions that you have no right to. If you have some credentials you want to boast then awe us and get it over with.

      • http://batman-news.com Old Sarge30

        Lots! Take a look at the F-117 shoot down over Serbia. Stealth without SEAD from Gowlers and Compass Call is still at risk.

  • Gary Church

    Hundreds of billions, actually it adds up to trillions over not very many years, for what a satellite and a cruise missile launched from a diesel submarine can do. It is just a way to transfer tax dollars into Lockheed Martin and Boeing shareholder pockets. Such a huge fortune it is almost impossible to understand- for a “strike package” to do…..what? Blow up more illiterate tribesmen on some mountainside halfway around the world? Threaten China into NOT collecting what we owe them? We are spending the future of our country on worthless junk. We would be better off spending the money on solar thermal power plants like Ivanpah in the Mojave desert and forgetting about the rest of the world for awhile. Really.

  • http://nickysworld.wordpress.com/ Nicky

    I think the US Navy is smartening up to the fact that the F-35 is going to be a flop. So the F/A-18 E/F, Advance Super Hornet and the E/A-18G is fast becoming the preferred alternative to the F-35 program. Much like how the JAS-39 Gripen C/D and Gripen NG is becoming the F-35 Alternative.

    • Gary Church

      The V-22 is pretty much a useless monstrosity and they faked the maintenance records and paid enough people off to put it in service; they might get away with this one also Nicky. But it may be “too big to fail.” If they cancel this thing after the money they have spent already it will be……incredible. There was a time when the public would not stand for it and demand heads roll. We are so dum’d down now the defense industry thinks they can get away with anything.

      • GaryLockhart

        Do provide your CV regarding your verifiable actual experience with the V-22.

        Paraphrasing Carlton Meyer and his cabal of buffoons at g2mil doesn’t carry any credibility.

        • Gary Church

          I am not paraphrasing anybody- and all anyone has to do is click on your name to see what your game is. Stop asking for my resume like you are some kind of gatekeeper of righteousness. The buffoons are the ones who demand credentials where there are none required. While it is obvious it is your standard tactic in a discussion you can’t intimidate anyone here unless they let you and I am not playing.

    • TerryTee

      You are right about the Gripen E ( NG ) becoming the Junk Strike Fighter alternative, with a price at $43 Million each, how many more Gripen E’s can you buy for the price of the F-35?? Answer a lot.

      New Gripen Aims For Low Cost, High Capability.

      • Gary Church

        “The JAS 39E will be able to engage stealth targets with a fused,
        multispectral sensor suite (see article below), according to program
        officials. It will be able to cruise at Mach 1.25 without using
        afterburner, and will enter service in 2018 with a full suite of weapons
        including the MBDA Meteor ramjet-powered air-to-air missile-”

        Kind of says how badly the U.S. taxpayer is getting ripped off.

      • Ziv Bnd

        TerryTee, that is right around half what the price of F-35 will be in a year or two, so which would you rather have, a strike package of a dozen F-35’s or 24 Gripen E’s? If you want to get all your pilots back alive, the F-35 package is your best bet.

        The same results are likely for an air to air scenario. The Gripen’s will be identified hundreds of miles out, whereas the F-35’s won’t be spotted by most radars until they are within a fraction of that.

        • TerryTee

          The Gripen E’s new “Sensor Suit” is designed to track Low RCS targets at distances compatible with a beyond-visual-range missile ( Meteor ) And I Quote: “The IRST is capable of detecting low-RCS targets at distances compatible
          with a beyond-visual-range missile launch, Mason says. “We have seen
          them,” he responds when asked if Selex IRSTs have tracked low-RCS
          targets. “We are looking at very small delta-Ts [temperature differences
          between the target and the background]. Some infrared absorbent paints
          cause more friction than standard surfaces, and that causes kinetic
          heating that the IRST will pick up.” Skyward-G does not depend on a
          supersonic target—“skin heating at 300-400 knots is significant”—and
          detects heat radiating through the aircraft’s skin from the engine, as
          well as skin friction and the exhaust plume”

          Read the rest at Aviation Week

          Gripen Sensors Claim Counter-Stealth Performance”

          And No One Really Believes the F-35 price will drop down top anywhere near that $80. Million price that the Fan Club is waving around. Not GAO after coming out this week with all the new software Issues that will raise prices again.

          • Viper550ful .

            How is that suppose to work when the F-35’s new “Sensor Suite” is designed to track HIGH RCS targets at distances at maximum detection level. How could it EVER be able to see first if the RCS of Grippen E with stores and tanks is that of roughly a clean Flanker.
            No matter how you spin and turn it, It is not a stealth plane. Period.
            Good luck pressing on to engage F-35, which you haven’t even detected yet and by thinking “Amraam will have motor issue, so who cares…”
            And why is it that in IR discussions F-35 is always the one with an IR emission and the rest all of sudden, for some magical reason do not have any IR emission at all…
            Beats me.

          • Gary Church

            It will work just fine and will see first just as often as the F-35. The rest do have IR emissions- you are the one making up magical statements.

      • Viper550ful .

        You can buy 22 Gripen E’s for 3.1 billion Euro’s (4,9 billion $)
        See Switzerland.
        Where does that 43 million $ fit in here?
        Must come with an awful lot of extras. Is it gold-plated?
        Bottom line: it is NOT an inexpensive plane…

        • TerryTee

          The $43 Million came from Aviation Week,

          New Gripen Aims For Low Cost, High Capability.

        • AndersAndersson

          Price isn’t for the planes only, includes service, maintenance and spareparts for decades.
          Meteor currently the most advanced air to air missile.
          JSF can’t shoot and scoot, it’s to slow, once it fires a air to air missile it is dead.
          Instead of buying a F-35 you could upgrade a F-105.

  • CharleyA

    Typo, or Fruedian slip?

    “….wants an additional 22 Growlers and put them in its unfounded requirements list,”

    Wideband EA has been discussed previously, perhaps not clearly by the Navy, and perhaps not understood by many F-35 supporters, but it’s been part of Boeing’s powerpoints for a while now.

  • GaryLockhart

    “Why The Navy Really Wants 22 More F/A-18Gs”(sic) Colin Clark

    The correct designator is EA-18G, Colin.

    • http://www.breakingdefense.com/ Colin Clark

      My boo boo. I hate designations like this….

      It’s like that F/A-18A- D or…. Sigh

  • PolicyWonk

    The USAF put every egg in the “stealth” basket, while the navy has intentionally preserved its EW capability, which is/was a wise decision.

    • H. H. GAFFNEY

      The Navy in fact was given the joint jamming mission upon the retirement of the EF-111A. It’s never just for the Navy — U.S. does joint operations.

      • PolicyWonk

        Really? That wasn’t the impression I got from an article I read in Aviation Week (years ago).

        However – while the US does do joint operations, the F-18 isn’t exactly a long-range aircraft (granted, there is such a thing as in-flight refueling), and a larger aircraft for long-range missions would seem a lot more appropriate for that purpose (especially, when well away from the oceans where the navy typically is situated).

        I hadn’t heard that the navy was “given” that mission. Might you have a reference (just for my own info)?


        • H. H. GAFFNEY

          We had a Navy F-18 pilot join us at CNA at one point. He had flown in Desert Storm — got a DFC for it. I asked him whether he was worried about the range of the F-18 (and that was the A version then). He said before they went, they were told any mission would be high-low-high. Given defense suppression, it was all high-high-high. They sent them up with three tanks, and they showed they could do with only two. And then, he said, “there was Air Force tanking.” That’s what now enables them to fly long missions in and out of Afghanistan. Remember: joint!

          • Trons Away

            The Navy wasn’t exactly “given” the Airborne Electric Attack mission, but there were some interservice agreements when the USAF retired the EF-111. The Navy provided three Joint expeditionary squadrons to support USAF deployments. The initial plan for the Growler was to replace only CVW Prowlers, but the Navy soon realized that COCOM AEA requirements would continue to grow, and the CVWs would be robbed of the EW assets. Additionally, the USMC will sunset the EA-6B by 2019, further increasing demand, and thus requiring more Navy Growlers.


    The Serbs shot down one of our F-117s, despite its stealth. Why? First, they followed the same route into targets. Second, the EA-6Bs (which the Growler has just about replaced) were too far away to jam those Serbian radars. One needs that insurance policy.

  • madskills

    If I was the Navy, would be looking at the f-18 just because of cost. Growlers cost under $100 million and regular f-18 around $60 million. It could be another 5 years if ever for the f-35 to get the software right. It’s time for the military to define more specific roles for aircraft rather then this swiss army knife philosophy. We have 190 f-22, they work and people are glad we have them. So get a special plane for air support, short take off, naval, bombers, etc. When you’re blowing $175 million a plane and they still don’t work, you can buy planes that specific functions and still cost less. They don’t need to always be stealth if they have a growler type plane with them or equivalent.

  • ELP

    “(The F-35 is the only US aircraft designed to defeat the most advanced Russian anti-aircraft systems such as the S-400 so the guess is that the JSF emits in frequencies designed to confuse and disable the radar systems that feed those.) ” —Sorry but no. Dumb as the U.S. Navy’s hope for “day-one” stealth justification for the F-35C, it has no basis in fact to take on emerging threats. That fantasy might have worked with broken down red force threats right after the end of the Cold War. Real threats are job of the F-22. The JSF JORD (composed in the 1990s and signed off at the beginning of the last decade) assumed hundreds of F-22s would take out the big threats and what was left the F-35 might be able to defend against: medium to short-range X-band-Ku-band threats. And well the F-35 is narrow-band stealth and narrow aspect, Its strongest stealth assumes a narrow front sector. Red-force analysts knew when designing what became today’s F-22 that you needed extreme performance (altitude and speed) to lower enemy no-escape-zone solutions, that stealth, by itself, was not good enough. That is why there is an F-22 in the first place. As it is (and all of its massive design flaws) the F-35 (pick a model) will get killed vs. emerging threats. The group thinkers pressed on hoping most threats would be post Cold-War broken down third rate threats like Operation:ALLIED FORCE. Today the JSF JORD is obsolete. So much so that the F-35 has no purpose. It won’t be able to take on emerging threats, and it is too expensive to own and operate for lessor threats. Again, that assumes everything works. The F-35’s incompetent program management has one consistent behavior: that of always failing to deliver on the promise.

  • Guest

    Thanks for the info. Meantime here you can have a look at some great F-35 photos :

    F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Pictures

  • ycplum

    I think we need to go with the hi-lo concept epitomized by the AF’s F-16’s and F-15’s. You have a base of lower cost planes as workhorses with a few more expensive, more capable planes to keep the enemy wondering.
    In this case, you need something stealthy (like teh F-35) to get close enough to punch a hole in the AD net. The cheaper workhorses can then follow through. Whether the F35 is the horse we should bet on is another rmatter entirely.

  • estuartj

    These 22 Growlers would keep the F-18 line going for how long, 2 years maybe? If they get them that provides a strong bridge to potentially drop the F-35C and go to a Advance Super Hornet (F/A-18 G/H?). Personally I like that idea, with the UCASS project expedited with an advanced stealth design to give the CBG the ISR/stike capability they claim the F-35C will fulfil, but with range/endurance to do that job right. Keep the F-18s as the “Truck” the CNO kept talking about with improved Stand-off weapons to outreach enemy air defenses (and outrange many A2/AD systems), but maintain the heavy strike capability vs non-peer or degraded peer adversaries.

    • http://www.breakingdefense.com/ Colin Clark

      If it ain’t stealthy, the Navy won’t buy it. And it wouldn’t be stealthy. For all the criticism of stealth and the fact it isn’t foolproof (what technology is?), an attack aircraft (let’s forgo the term “fighter,” which is so last generation) without stealth and a huge power plant and huge software capabilities just isn’t going to replace any “fighter.”

      • estuartj

        Never say never, I think the USN is already (and maybe always was) sour on the F-35C. I’d bet if they had their way they’d have already walked away from it, but OSD won’t allow it. This is why the proposed Growler order is so interesting, it keeps open their “out” option, for a while at least.
        The Advance Super Hornet is more stealthy (and has a longer range than current E/F models), is that enough? I don’t know, but IMO the day when even the stealthies platforms can reasonably expect to penetrate an advance air defense are coming to an end, ultra stealthy long endurance drones for ISR and increased range, stealth and “intelligence” of standoff weapons are needed to extend the strike range and survivability of the manned airborne platforms.

  • les

    All this $$$ for Jet Defense systems yet no one can find the $ to help our VETERANS and the VA Health System which is understaffed with Doctors, understaffed with Nurses and support personnel. Then Congress doesn’t want to implement a Voucher system so they can get to see a General Physician in 2 weeks or Less like you and I do and NOT 2 months. WTF are our priorities regarding the people who have ALREADY laid down their lives so we can be FREE . Time to stop the BS for weapons systems and protect our # 1 weapon our people and boots on the ground!

  • Gregory Allard

    Likely pressure to preserve F35 international sales.