US Navy EA-18G Growlers Jamming Signals Controlling ISIS Suicide Drones in Syria
The U.S. Navy is using Boeing EA-18G Growler Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) aircraft costing some $67 million apiece to jam command signals to ISIS-operated quadcopters and off-the-shelf aerial drones that can be bought online for about a few hundred dollars each.
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Growlers from Electronic Attack Squadron 131 (VAQ-131) "Lancers" aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), which entered the Persian Gulf in March, are supporting airstrikes by Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
EA-18 Growlers are conducting electronic warfare (EW) missions, jamming ISIS communications, as well as the communications of ISIS drones doing reconnaissance or "kamikaze" suicide drones inflicting casualties on coalition ground troops when armed with explosives.
Admiral Ken Whitesell, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 2 aboard CVN-77 said he believes the importance of the Growler's capability to mess-up electronic communications is underscored in the current fight against small, commercially available unmanned aircraft systems deployed by ISIS.
"You've probably been watching the unmanned aerial vehicles -- homemade, Amazon-delivered, radio-controlled," said Adm. Whitesell.
"(ISIS militants can fly) homemade bombs over the top of forces and drop them by crashing the gyro-copters. So how can we attack those? The easiest way to do that is potentially to jam the signal and stop them flying."
Growlers feature wingtip ALQ-99 jamming pods and ALQ-218 radar warning receiver equipment. The EA-18G defeats an enemy's communications by using a combination of EW systems and air-to-ground missiles. It can carry up to five ALQ-99 jamming pods for AEA.
It can be armed with two AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) or AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles) to attack enemy EW sites.
Growlers fly regular missions with Hornets when attacking ISIS targets.
"The Growlers is a difficult mission, because you never know if you're successful," said Adm. Whitesell.
"If nothing bad happens, that community is always happy to go, 'OK, nothing bad happened, but I don't know for sure that I was a part of that. So let's just keep doing what we're doing.' "