Military Aviation

US Navy EA-18G Growler pilot explains why Jamming Pods don’t turn a non-stealth aircraft into a stealth aircraft

The EA-18G Growler jamming pods

The EA-18G Growler Airborne Electronic Attack aircraft is a variant in the F/A-18 family of aircraft that combines the proven F/A-18F Super Hornet platform with a sophisticated electronic warfare suite. Built to replace the EA-6B Prowler, the Growler is the first newly-designed electronic warfare aircraft produced in more than 35 years.

The EA-18G Growler, an Airborne Electronic Attack aircraft, integrates the latest electronic attack technology, including the ALQ-218 receiver, ALQ-99 tactical jamming pods, ALQ-227 Communication Countermeasures Set, and Joint Tactical Terminal – Receiver (JTT-R) satellite communications. The AN/ALQ-249, the Next Generation Jamming Pod, is in final development and will be the successor for the long serving ALQ-99 pods.

Along with the electronic attack suite, the Growler also features the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.

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Would it be possible to use the EA-18G Growler Jamming Pods to turn a non-stealth aircraft into a stealth aircraft?

Would it be possible to use jammers like those of the Growler on military aircraft instead of stealth technology?

Adam Daymude, former US Navy EA-18G Growler pilot, explains on Quora;

‘You’d never be able to have enough jamming sources to protect you from every threat. And even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to fit all those jamming sources on one plane.

‘*Major caveat! Newer systems like DRFM and AESA EA complicate things but they will never be able to provide the same level of stealth as the F-22 or F-35.

‘I flew the Prowler and Growler and one way I would simplify the description of what we do is that we provided “stealth” to non-stealthy planes (if you take the meaning of stealth as making yourself or others look like background clutter). But look at what it took:

EA-18G with typical combat load

‘Let’s pretend for a moment that this Growler is a strike aircraft trying to use jamming to be stealthy, which it certainly is not! You have 3 jamming pods there with 2 transmitters each so 6 jamming sources. These guys broadcast in a beam only so wide, dependent on frequency. When pointed at the ground, you have something akin to a spotlight, called a jammer footprint, that’s sending jamming signals at a specific RADAR within that footprint. So, you get to jam 6 specific RADARS in 6 specific spots (you can split up the transmitter’s time and do half one RADAR and half another but you lose power which equates to range).

Jammers don’t turn a non-stealth aircraft into a stealth aircraft

‘So, I’m ingressing, fat dumb and happy, trusting that my jammers are making me stealthy to all of the RADARs and shooters around the target area, which is off my nose. Obviously, that isn’t going to be the only place shooters are, and you have nothing to jam them. Even if we add in another Growler, we’d have to ditch mutual support in combat spread because we’d have to be flying in close formation and 6 more RADARs and spots really isn’t going to change the equation.’

Daymude concludes;

‘And did you see the size of those pods?! How the hell would you carry the bombs and missiles you’d need to be an effective striker?

‘Or you could build this:

F-35C

‘…and be protected all around.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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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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