NELLIS AFB, Nev. --- Navy EA-18G Growlers from the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 134 Garudas at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, join Air Force and Marine assets from around the world in high-end air-to-air combat training.
The Garudas are participating in Red Flag 17-3, the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise.
“The mission of the Growler is to deny and degrade enemy integrated air defense systems in order to allow strikes against enemies,” said Lieutenant Kevin “Veloci” Rafter, VAQ-134 EA-18G pilot, “Basically, we jam enemy radars to allow strikers to go in and destroy the target undetected. While the radars are being jammed, the enemy cannot employ their weapons.”
Rafter compared the jets capability to being blinded by a bright flashlight in a dark room.
According to Boeings EA-18G fact sheet, the EA-18G Growler is the most advanced airborne electronic attack platform and is the only one in production today. A variant of the combat-proven F/A-18F Super Hornet, the Growler provides tactical jamming and electronic protection to U.S. military forces and allies around the world. Industry and the U.S. Navy continue to invest in advanced Growler capabilities to ensure it continues to protect all strike aircraft during high-threat missions for decades to come.
“The Air Force has platforms for a similar mission, such as the [EC-130H Compass Call], but we do it in a more dynamic way,” Rafter said. “We are a little more capable in air-to-air and air-to-ground, allowing us to help supplement the mission of the strikers.”
The Growler is considered an all-weather, electronic attack aircraft with the primary role of suppressing enemy electronic capabilities through tactical jamming and the delivery of High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles.
For the second time in six months, VAQ-134 has participated in the excellent training here at Red Flag.
The mission of the Red Flag exercise overall is to maximize the combat readiness and survivability of participants by providing a realistic training environment and a pre-flight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas.
VAQ-134 is no stranger to working with the Air Force, and exercises like Red Flag provide the chance to train with assets from other branches before working together while deployed.
“For us especially, [the benefit is] integration with the Air Force,” Rafter said. “Due to the fact that we are an expeditionary squadron, not being attached to a carrier air wing, we work with the Air Force on a regular basis.”
During RED FLAG 17-3 there will be two F-35 Lightning II squadrons participating. The Marine Corps’ F-35Bs will participate alongside the Air Force’s F-35As for the first time in Red Flag history.
For VAQ-134, training with 5th generation aircraft such as the F-35 enhances their readiness and ability to integrate with units in a joint-warfare environment.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: It would be very interesting to see how the Growlers’ performance at this Red Flag compares to that of the two F-35 squadrons that are also participating.
The two aircraft take diametrically opposed approaches surviving strike missions by remaining unseen by the enemy: the F-35 thanks to its “stealth” design, and the Growler by jamming and destroying enemy radars.
A direct comparison of how the two performed against the same opponents would be very instructive, but if such a study is carried out it will probably remain closely held.)