Japan could buy EA-18G Growler electronic-warfare aircraft to boost its Anti-Access/Area Denial strategy


By Dario Leone
Jan 4 2018
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Japan’s Defense Ministry plans to officially put in a request to buy these specialized aircraft in the Mid-Term Defense Program at the end of the year. Once approved, the acquisition will take place between 2019 to 2023

According to the Nikkei, Tokyo is taking a look at getting electronic-warfare (EW) aircraft and Boeing’s EA-18G Growler is one of the options being explored.

The news outlet says the Defense Ministry plans to officially put in a request to buy these specialized aircraft in the Mid-Term Defense Program at the end of the year. Once approved, the acquisition will take place between 2019 to 2023.

The EA-18G Growler is a variant of the combat-proven F/A-18F Super Hornet and flies the airborne electronic attack mission. Thanks to its array of sensors and weapons, the aircraft is able to perform a wide range of missions such as Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), Stand-off and Escort Jamming (where the Growler not only fly the traditional stand-off jamming mission but also provides the escort for other air assets thanks to the speed and agility inherited form the Super Hornet), Non-Traditional Electronic Attack (where thanks to its enhanced situational awareness the EA-18G achieves an unmatched degree of integration with ground operations) and Self-protection and Time-Critical Strike Support (where thanks to its Advanced Electronically Scanned Array [AESA] radar, digital data links and air-to-air missiles, the EA-18G has self-protection capability and is also highly effective for target identification and prosecution).

Growler’s sensors have “a range of several hundred kilometers,” according to the Japanese Defense Ministry’s acquisition and technology unit. If necessary, the country could deploy the aircraft over international waters off the coast of North Korea to disable missile bases and radar facilities.

Thanks to its capabilities the EA-18G would enhance Japan’s so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial strategy, which aims to keep Chinese aircraft and military vessels from encroaching on Japan’s surroundings. China is deploying its own electronic-warfare aircraft under the military’s recently formed Strategic Support Force.

As we have already reported Japan is buying another weapon that could be used in a strike on enemy facilities, in the form of the the JASSM-ER (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range) cruise missile which features a range of over 575 miles (925 km).

EA-18G Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. EA-18G Growler VAQ-130 Zappers, AC500 / 168268 / 2016

To field the JASSM-ER the country is exploring the possibility of modifying Japan Air Self Defense Force’s F-15J all-weather air superiority fighter to give it a ground strike capability. According to a government source, Japan’s Defense Ministry “is in the final stage of arrangements to include costs for research on [F-15J] airframe modifications to introduce it [the JASSM-ER] into the fiscal 2018 budget.”

Furthermore Japan is considering the purchase of F-35B STOVL stealth fighters so that it can deploy them aboard Izumo-class helicopter destroyers which will have to be modified with ski-jumps and upgraded aviation fuel storage facilities. Tokyo might even build a new-class of ship to handle the F-35B.

As we have already explained Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is thinking to give preemptive strike capability to the Japan Self-Defence Force (JSDF). Abe would like to give the JSDF such capability because of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs recent developments.

Nevertheless, despite the threat posed by Pyongyang nuclear arsenal, apprehension about giving such capability to JSDF remains deep-rooted within the nation.

However if North Korea were to simultaneously launch multiple missiles, it would be difficult to shoot them all down under Japan’s current missile defense structure. Given this issue, Abe is considering possessing the ability to strike enemy bases before a missile attack is initiated against his country.

Along with a strike performed by F-15Js armed with JASSM-ER missiles and an air raid conducted by F-35 stealth fighter bombers, two options are under consideration: a ballistic missile attack and a cruise missile strike.

Japan could buy EA-18G Growler electronic-warfare aircraft to boost its Anti-Access/Area Denial strategy

Acquiring a preemptive strike capability has been considered by previous governments with no decision reached, because such ability would not be appropriate for the JSDF exclusively defensive nature.

Photo credit: Senior Airman John Linzmeier and Ssgt. James R. Ferguson / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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