Tag Archives: AGM-88 HARM

All U.S. Navy Super Hornets and Growlers grounded after incident injured aircrew

The U.S. Navy has temporarily grounded all its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler jets after a ground incident at Whidbey Island.

The U.S. Navy Naval Air Forces commander has suspended flight operations of both Super Hornet and Growler types after a canopy incident involving an EA-18G from the VAQ-132 “Scorpions” caused unspecified injuries to the aircrew on Friday, Dec. 16.

According to a release from the USN the aircraft suffered an “on-deck emergency” shortly before take off from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The injured crew was transported to a Medical Center in Seattle for evaluation by a base SAR (Search And Rescue) helicopter.

Since the systems used by the Boeing Super Hornet and the Growler, its Electronic Attack variant, are similar, the U.S. Navy has decided to ground both types as a precaution pending further investigation.

It’s not clear whether the EA-18Gs supporting the war on ISIS will be affected by the flight restrictions as well (even though a Navy spokesperson said that exceptions will be authorized on a case-by-case basis) but, depending on its length, the grounding may have an impact on the US ability to conduct “kinetic” EW (Electronic Warfare) missions, a kind of task currently only two other platforms can carry out: U.S. Air Force F-16CJs and U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers.

The grounding of the most advanced Hornet variants comes in a period of serious concern surrounding the crash rate recorded by the U.S. and foreign fleets of “Legacy Hornets” (that is to say the A, B, C and D versions): as reported at the beginning of December, the recent U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C crash that caused the death of a Marine pilot was the 9th major incident involving a “Legacy Hornet” (including a Swiss F/A-18C and the Canadian CF-18 lost on Nov. 28, 2016) in the last 6 months.

In the wake of three Hornet crashes from June through October, the U.S. Marine Corps temporarily grounded its non-deployed Hornets for 24 hours, before losing two more F/A-18Cs few days after the ban was lifted.

Image credit: U.S. Navy



Take a ride in an EA-18G Growler with the awesome VAQ-140 cruise video

Footage is from deployment in 2015-2016 to the Arabian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The video in this post comes from U.S. Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 140 (VAQ-140).

Based at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, the squadron’s last deployment took the “Patriots” to the east coast on the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75). This was the ship’s and Airwing 7’s first deployment supporting Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), with targeted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as part of a comprehensive strategy to defeat the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The VAQ-140 “Patriots” fly the EA-18G Growler. Based off of the F/A-18F, the most noticeable difference with the Super Hornet are the wingtip pods housing the ALQ-218 signals receiver suite, which helps to detect and geolocate emitters and signals.

The aircraft carry the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System underneath the wings instead of bombs carried by conventional fighters. These jamming pods delay, degrade and deny the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum. Controlling what information and communication is available provides an immense tactical advantage on the battlefield and enables Coalition forces to carry out their missions with impunity.

The Growler is also capable of carrying the HARM (High speed Anti-Radiation Missile) and AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile); these weapons are designed to seek out threat weapons systems and emitters, guiding on their energy, and destroy them.

Many thanks to Christian Long and the “Patriots” for sending this over to us!


Gulf War 25th Anniversary Special: the SEAD missions flown by USMC F/A-18 Hornets to protect strike packages over Iraq

The first large deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets took place in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, when they flew many of their sorties in SEAD role.

During Operation Desert Storm, the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions were performed by USAF, U.S. Navy and USMC aircraft. However, those flown by Naval Aviators and by Marine Corps pilots were not the same as the Air Force’s Wild Weasels. In fact, as told by Marine Corps Maj. Steve Pomeroy of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 333 to Steve Davies for his book US Multi-Role Fighter Jets, USAF’s aircraft “went out to hunt SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles). It didn’t matter if they were accompanying a strike or they were preparing for one to come later. They considered a mission successful when they removed the radar.”

On the contrary, USMC F/A-18s went out to escort a strike package and destroy air defense sites using AGM-88 HARMs (High-speed Anti Radiation Missiles) to make sure that the enemy radar was turned off or destroyed by the time the attackers hit their intended targets.

This kind of missions were known as “SEAD roll-back” and thanks to these sorties the enemy air-defense systems in Kuwait or southern Iraq were either destroyed or moved back to safety, allowing coalition aircraft to freely operate in the area of operations going after significant military targets like artillery positions, infantry concentrations and armor.

Pomeroy remembers his first SEAD roll-back sortie during Desert Storm: “Our squadron’s first mission actually took off before the first bombs hit Baghdad. That was a high-speed defense-suppression run, using HARMs in support of a strike package going into Iraq. My own first mission was the same thing, in support of a Navy carrier strike at Basra. I don’t know the specific targets the Navy was going after, though being Basra the chances were that they were after petro-chemical complexes, airfields, air-defense sites or possibly bridges. We stood off from the target area before the strike package arrived, trying to locate and neutralize all of the radar-guided SAMs that we knew were there. I guess we were successful. Nobody was shot down.”

F/A-18 Desert Storm

A strike package was generally made by more than 12 aircraft and involved HARM shooters, bombers, electronic warfare aircraft along with the tankers for air refueling support. If the Hornet drivers were able to destroy the SAM sites before the arrival of the strike package, the attack planes could not only hit their targets with greater accuracy but also have more chances to return home safely.

Obviously, this kind of job exposed the F/A-18 pilots to the fire of Anti-Aircraft-Artillery (AAA) and to SAM launches.

At night, both AAA and SAMs could be clearly seen, while if a SAM was launched in the daylight, the only way to see it was paying attention to the trail left by its ignition: in particular, the shoulder-launched missiles were fairly easy to spot because of their intense ignition signature. If the pilot was able to see the smoke of the missile leaving the ramp he could take an evasive action: SAMs could be deceived by a combination of onboard expendable such as chaff or flares, electronic jamming and hard maneuvering. If a missile maintained the same relative position to the locked on aircraft the pilot usually maneuvered on it, performing a sharp turn that could brake the lock.

SAMs could not always be defeated, but any F/A-18s that were hit were not so seriously damaged that they couldn’t get back. In fact as Maj. Pomeroy explains the aircraft performed exceptionally well in this role also because of the strength of its airframe: “the Hornet could, and did, take some pretty serious hits and still get 200 miles or more back to base.”

F/A-18 SEAD roll-back

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Hornet Ball 2014: the best naval aviation video of the year

Once again, Hornet Ball is the best naval aviation video of the year.

The Hornet Ball (Strike Fighter Ball Pacific) is an annual event consisting of all the West coast Naval F/A-18C Legacy Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons, their pilots and guests.

Each year the event features a video, produced by “Wingnut”, a Hornet pilot himself, compiled from all the squadrons’ last year of flying in both combat and training missions: catapult launches, trap landings, aerobatics, dogfighting against Su-30s and Mig-29s, live firing of air-to-air missiles, HARM anti-radion missiles, LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), cluster bombs, low level flying in the desert, ATFLIR  (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared) pod clips, and much more.

Here’s the Hornet Ball 2013.

H/T Tom Demerly and Al Clark for the heads-up