ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 11, 2022): Most times, the enemy never sees them coming.
They are the “Gray Wolves” of Electronic Attack Squadron 142 flying the EA-18G Growler, the Navy’s first newly designed electronic warfare aircraft in more than 35 years. Call sign “Grim,” the Gray Wolves are based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, Washington, and they perform carrier-based missions around the world.
Flying a derivative of the combat-proven two-seat F/A-18 Hornet, the Grey Wolves’ primary mission is to electronically attack and suppress enemy air defenses before fighter aircraft arrive. Built by Boeing Aircraft, the Growler integrates the latest electronic attack technology, including the latest jamming pods, communication countermeasures, and satellite communications. Launched from aircraft carriers, this $67 million plane sports two General Electric turbofan engines that produce 22,000 pounds of thrust powering the jet up to speeds of Mach 1.8 (14,000 mph) and it has a range of up to 850 nautical miles.
The Growler does more than just blind enemy radars, however. It is armed with a variety of missiles that home in on enemy signals to destroy anti-aircraft batteries, usually before the start of hostilities. These armaments include the medium range air-to-air missile AIM 120, a “fire and forget” all weather weapon that uses radar to find its target. For air-to-surface attacks, the Growler can launch up to two AGM-88 HARM, or High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, that lock onto enemy electronic transmissions to destroy air defense radars.
The Grey Wolves were the first Navy squadron to deploy to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They flew missions for 187 days straight, earning them the Navy’s Battle E and Safety S awards. The Wolves later flew missions from Al Assad Air Base in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and they were the last Prowler expeditionary deployment to Iraq.
For American pilots, the Grey Wolves and its sister squadrons pave the way for successful strike missions by eliminating deadly enemy air defenses. It takes a certain brand of daring to be “first on scene” challenging enemy defenses.
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