Tag Archives: Boeing EA-18G Growler

We have been aboard USS George Washington during F-35C’s latest carrier trials

Report: F-35Cs Descend in Mass on the USS George Washington During DT-III.

The USS George Washington (CVN-73) is hosting the F-35C in its final Developmental Testing cycle, DT-III through Aug. 23.

However, for a couple of days the two VX-23 “Salty Dogs” F-35C Lightning IIs from NAS Patuxent River were joined by 5 F-35Cs from VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” out of Eglin AFB. The 7 F-35Cs on the deck of the carrier represented the largest carrier contingent of F-35Cs to date.

F-35C from VFA-101 "Grim Reapers" performs a touch and go on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016 VX-23 "Salty Dogs" F-35C in foreground aside another VFA-101 F-35C.

F-35C from VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” performs a touch and go on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016 VX-23 “Salty Dogs” F-35C in foreground aside another VFA-101 F-35C.

Media were hosted on the USS George Washington Monday, Aug. 15 to witness the pilots completing their carrier qualifications (CQs) at the onset of DT-III. All pilots embarking must perform a number of “cats” and “traps” prior to executing the specific tests involved with DT-III.

F-35C from VFA-101 "Grim Reapers" dropping from deck and into the hangar for engine change. The aircraft is 100%, just an exercise to see if anything unusual crops up. On the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016.

F-35C from VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” dropping from deck and into the hangar for engine change. The aircraft is 100%, just an exercise to see if anything unusual crops up. On the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016.

DT-III includes validation of the aircraft’s flying capabilities with full internal and external stores (up to 4 GBU-12s and two AIM-9X on external hard points); handling tests with asymmetrical loads; testing for maximum weight launches (up to 65,000 lbs) at minimum power; evaluating all of these in a variety of wind and sea states.

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers getting ready to snag a 3 wire on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers getting ready to snag a 3 wire on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

As explained by Tom “Briggo” Briggs ITF (Integrated Test Force) Chief Test Engineer there were some additional aspects they wanted to evaluate. These areas to assess included shipborne evaluation of tweaks made to control laws (based on previous DT testing), shipborne logistical support and some night launches to verify adjustments made to the Gen 3 helmet performed as desired.

The ITF (Integrated Task Force) and supporting team of personnel have worked tirelessly to bring the program to this point, and yet the reality of DT-III was – “business as usual.”

Media probed for human interest stories from the cadre of pilots on board, “What was it like, after all the simulator hours and practice landings at the airfield to actually land on the ship?” From pilots who had 50 traps with the F-35C to those who had just realized their first – they struggled to provide any other answer; “no drama, no surprise, performed as expected, very vanilla, pretty easy.”

F-35C from VX-23 "Salty Dogs" arrested landing, during DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) August 15, 2016.

F-35C from VX-23 “Salty Dogs” arrested landing, during DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) August 15, 2016.

The preparation had been solid and thorough and DT-III itself was simply moving according to plan – that is if you can plan to be ahead of schedule after only 1.5 days!

F-35C from VX-23 "Salty Dogs" crosses the deck after fueling, on the way to the catapults. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

F-35C from VX-23 “Salty Dogs” crosses the deck after fueling, on the way to the catapults. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

In many ways DT-III was “upstaged” by the appearance of VFA-101, and yet it was upstaged in a fashion that brought ultimate satisfaction to the ITF’s efforts.

As U.S. Navy Commander Ryan “Flopper” Murphy, F-35 ITF lead said, “the greatest satisfaction was to watch the fleet (VFA-101) start to utilize the aircraft.” After all, that was the point of all the years of work; to equip and empower the Fleet with the F-35C.

160814-N-XW558-090 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2016) Lt. William Bowen taxis in an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VX-23 is conducting its third and final development test (DT-III) phase aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be Fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex L. Smedegard)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2016) Lt. William Bowen taxis in an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VX-23 is conducting its third and final development test (DT-III) phase aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be Fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex L. Smedegard)

12 VFA-101 pilots with 5 F-35Cs completed their CQs in just over 1.5 days. As Capt. James Christie of VFA-101 described, that includes 10 landings and 2 touch and gos each. A total of 120 cats, 120 traps and 24 touch and goes. Simultaneously the 5 VX-23 pilots performed their CQs. F-35Cs were all over the carriers deck, moving, landing, and launching – much like I would imagine an operational tempo.

F-35C from VX-23 "Salty Dogs" waits to cross the deck for fueling. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

F-35C from VX-23 “Salty Dogs” waits to cross the deck for fueling. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

There were instances of hot refueling, with pilot changes during refuel and the aircraft cycling back for more CQs.

As VX-23 F-35C pilot Ted “Dutch” Dyckman explained, everybody completed their CQs faster than with the Hornet or Super Hornet. The additional fuel on the F-35C, the ease of landing due to Delta Flight Path mode, along with aircraft reliability all played a part in the accelerated CQs.

The innovative “Delta Flight Path” mode that is engaged on approach alters the F-35C control laws, setting auto throttles and maintaining the optimal 3 degree glide slope to landing. This approach makes landing on the carrier much easier, and pilots were hitting the desired 3 wire virtually 100% of the time.

160814-N-MY901-131 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2016) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant assigned to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, the Navy’s F-35C Fleet replacement squadron, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VFA-101 aircraft and pilots are conducting initial qualifications aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be Fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Krystofer Belknap)

160814-N-MY901-131
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2016) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant assigned to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, the Navy’s F-35C Fleet replacement squadron, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VFA-101 aircraft and pilots are conducting initial qualifications aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be Fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Krystofer Belknap)

Delta Flight Path utilizes the flaps to add or decrease lift during approach to maintain the glide slope. Observers can see a tremendous amount of flap movement during the aircrafts approach to the deck.

These movements are all controlled by the computer to provide the pilot what they want – stable glideslope to the deck. The F/A-18E/F and EA-18G control laws are being modified to feature the same Delta Flight path in an initiative called “Magic Carpet.”

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers crosses the deck for fueling on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers crosses the deck for fueling on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

As Briggs explained, DT-III is to prepare the aircraft launch and recovery bulletins (ALB/ARB). These are the operating guides the Navy will utilize to determine the appropriate launch and recovery parameters for the aircraft, given weights and conditions. These bulletins are required for operations, and ensure the aircraft can safely launch and recover with the desired loads to complete assigned missions.

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers landing on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers landing on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

Recently appointed to the new position, Director of Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration, Rear Admiral Roy “Trigger” Kelley was also aboard the USS George Washington. Kelley will be directing the F-35C program towards IOC between August 2018 and Feb 2019. Kelley is excited about the capabilities the F-35C will bring to the Fleet; first day access into contested areas that host sophisticated integrated air defense systems; the ability to utilize stealth and sensors to define the battlespace combined with advanced command and control capabilities that will empower the entire fleet.

DT-III is a significant milestone, and it is clear the F-35C is now tracking very quickly and methodically to a IOC with the U.S. Navy.

F-35C from VX-23 "Salty Dogs" executes a last second wave-off with F-35Cs from VX-23 and VFA-101 "Grim Reapers" in background. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

F-35C from VX-23 “Salty Dogs” executes a last second wave-off with F-35Cs from VX-23 and VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” in background. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

The Aviationist would like to thank the following for their support: Sylvia Pierson, F-35 ITF/JPO PA; CDR Dave Hecht, Naval Air Force Atlantic PAO; Capt. Timothy Kuehhas, CO USS George Washington; and the many supporting PAOs on and off shore, pilots, engineers, and C-2 Greyhound crews. The entire US Navy team were professional, gracious hosts.

Image credit: U.S. Navy and Todd Miller

Salva

Salva

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!

 

Watch the heat distortion and tip vortices generated by an EA-18G Growler landing at Nellis AFB

Red Flag 16-1 underway at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas.

With RF16-1 underway, cool images and footage showing Red Flag participants taking off and recovering to Nellis have started to pop up.

Here’s an interesting one, filmed by Dave Stein, showing a VAQ-138 EA-18G Growler on base turn for final: take a look at the heat distortion and wingtip vortices highlighted by the desert mountains in the background.

Unique photo shows U.S. Navy Growler with High Value Individual cell phone-jamming kill mark

U.S. Navy Growlers jam High Value Targets/Individuals’ cell phones.

The image in this post shows the nose of a VAQ-137 EA-18G Growler aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt, supporting Operation Inherent Resolve against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Interestingly, the aircraft sports a quite unique kill marking, showing a person “hit” by a lightning bolt.

According to our sources, this is the kill mark applied when the Growler is used in an operation during which it jams cell comms or pick up cell comms and that person is targeted.

All the other “standard” lighting bolts are for generic Electronic Attack support: usually, jamming during ops when F/A-18s are dropping ordnance.

But the cell phone one is very specific to targeting a High Value Target or other individual with a cell or cell-jamming over an area. Ordnance is often employed in this context.

The Boeing EA-18G Growler is an Electronic Warfare variant of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet that replaced the EA-6B Prowlers in U.S. Navy service.

Along with actively jamming enemy communications, the Growler, operating in a networked environment along with other two aircraft of the same type (needed for triangulation), can use its EW pods to geo-locate a signal source and target it from stand-off distance with air-to-surface missiles.

Image credit: Marc Garlasco

Focus on Red Flag 15-3: how U.S. forces learn to fight in the unseen battle space

We have also taken part in an aerial refueling mission: “nobody kicks ass, without tanker gas!”

Red Flag is well known as the world’s premier aerial warfighting exercise. Featuring the broad expanse of the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), (1000+ potential targets, surface to air missile sites etc.) as well as Air, Space (surveillance, communication) and Cyber assets, the exercise is designed to challenge participants with cutting edge and real world warfighting experience.

The civilian observer notes only those battles that are seen with their eyes or overheard on scanner frequencies. However the warfare is dramatically impacted by what cannot be seen or heard by the outside observer. Beyond the theatres of land, sea, & air – the new theater for battle is “cyberspace.” Closely associated with cyberspace is warfare in the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. Wireless signals, jamming radars, or GPS all have formidable impact on the success of any modern military campaign. Though capabilities are seldom discussed in any detail, “cyberspace” is as real as any physical theatre. As civilians we utilize cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum each day through gps, satellite radio, car remotes, smartphones, wireless routers and corporate networks. Military devices utilize variants of the same technologies, and yet these technologies can be disrupted, and these disruptions must be accounted for and overcome. The ability to fight in and control cyberspace and the related “electromagnetic spectrum” is critical to the success of an effective military campaign against a well prepared adversary.

EA-18G Growler VAQ-138 Yellow Jackets on launch for Red Flag 15-3 sortie.

EA-18G Growler VAQ-138 Yellow Jackets on launch for Red Flag 15-3 sortie.

 

“…be advised, we are not receiving surveillance.”

“Baron copies, we are working on it.”

Red Flag not only calls on the traditional assets of air and ground, but utilizes space assets, as well as cyber and the electromagnetic in the exercise. Virtual participants participate on some level, networks are attacked, navigation systems interfered with and the attacks are countered. This is likely behind the radio chatter monitored one day between what was clearly command and control personnel and aircraft flying for Red Air “..be advised, we are not receiving surveillance.” “Baron copies, we are working on it.” Radars and weapon systems may be jammed or spoofed, and through it all, participants must react, complete their missions and live to fight another day. In this space, Red Flag is like no other exercise on the planet.

F-16CM 55th FS Shaw AFB departs Nellis on Red Flag 15-3 sortie. RC-135V/W Joint Rivet in background.

F-16CM 55th FS Shaw AFB departs Nellis on Red Flag 15-3 sortie. RC-135V/W Joint Rivet in background.

Now in its 40th year, and the latest Red Flag wrapped up Jul. 31, 2015 (the third of four exercises planned for 2015). This session was a 3 week exercise with participation from a wide variety of primarily USAF units, with participation from the Navy & Marines (unit list here). While Red Flag typically involves international participants, Red Flag 15-3 featured such only on an exchange basis.

A successful air campaign in today’s environment requires careful coordination of specialized assets to ensure success. –Red Flag involves “Red Air” (the bad guys) against “Blue Air” (the good guys). Reflecting development of a trend that started some time ago more and more visiting units are rotated through “Red Missions.” This certainly increases the complexity and realism of the exercise, as well as the opportunity to learn – with crews playing and experiencing many more scenarios. Each day brings new challenges that reflect what one might run into in the real world, from confrontation with a global power, to dealing with a rogue nation, a terrorist enclave, precise targets, and/or targets of opportunity.

F-16C 64 AGRS departs Nellis For Red Flag 15-3 Sortie

F-16C 64 AGRS departs Nellis For Red Flag 15-3 Sortie

The value of Red Flag must be seen through the context of maintaining a capable, experienced military force, even while military personnel is constantly changing through attrition and recruiting. The need to train personnel cannot be under estimated, and there is no better place then Red Flag for personnel of all disciplines to complete their first 10 combat missions.

F-15E 57 WG, 17 WPS Nellis AFB returns to Nellis after Red Flag 15-3 sortie

F-15E 57 WG, 17 WPS Nellis AFB returns to Nellis after Red Flag 15-3 sortie

As was made clear by Capt. Britt, aircraft commander of a B-52H bomber in the 69th Bomb Squadron (Minot AFB) units prepare for Red Flag vigorously prior to arrival to ensure they are ready to participate effectively. 1st Lt. Joseph added that their unit considers participation in Red Flag as their “superbowl.” They compete among aircraft and among crews to push each other to greater excellence.

B-52H of the 69th Bomb Squadron from Minot AFB lands at Nellis AFB after Red Flag sortie

B-52H of the 69th Bomb Squadron from Minot AFB lands at Nellis AFB after Red Flag sortie

 

“Ivan one, target the bomber 040, 35, 35,000” (Ivan One).

Participants in Red Flag indicated that the greatest value of the exercise is the integration with the other units in the exercise. As indicated by Capt. Britt, it is one thing to have theoretical knowledge of assets such as the EA-18G Growler, it is altogether another to work with it in the air, and understand the capabilities of what it can do to jam enemy radar and protect the big bomber (fighting in the EM spectrum).

Make no mistake about it, as much as Red Air wants to take out Strikers (such as F-16s or F-15E Strike Eagles on ground attack missions) the big bomber is a desired target as noted by monitoring Red Air radio channels, “Ivan Two, you are going to be targeting the heavy bomber 035 – 35,000” (Ivan). “Flanker 4, your targeting is going to be low striker groups 085 – 20 miles, 7,000” (Flanker 4). “Ivan one, what luck?” (Ivan one clean). “Ivan one, target the bomber 040 35, 35,000” (Ivan One). “Ivan Two, target strikers 030 – 19,000 two ship” (Ivan Two). “Ivan One, what luck on the bomber?” (targeted). “Locked hostile, continue there. Ivan Two snap 030 heavy bomber. Ivan Two” (Fox three, nose 8 mile). “Ivan One, skip it retarget 040 – 35,000 beam west Ivan One” (One).

I suspect the B-52 crew, along with its own electronic warfare (EW) team is thankful to have Growlers and Raptors in the air on and at their side! Having “real” experience to understand the role and capabilities of the assets on your team is critical to build trust in each other, and clear the “fog of war” so the mission can be executed successfully.

F-15C 159 FW, 122 FS US ANG NAS JRB New Orleans.  In Flight Refueling from KC-135 by the 92 ARS Fairchild AFB during Red Flag 15-3.

F-15C 159 FW, 122 FS US ANG NAS JRB New Orleans. In Flight Refueling from KC-135 by the 92 ARS Fairchild AFB during Red Flag 15-3.

A flight in one of Blue Air’s assigned KC-135 tankers exposes yet another dimension of the exercise. Departing early and orbiting in a racetrack pattern far to the east air, they are a very real part of the exercise (Red Air may have a tanker of their own on the western side of the range). Manned by aircraft commander, pilot and boom operator the 3 person crew (in this case from the 92nd Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) of Fairchild AFB) keeps busy optimizing their own fuel burn, while being at the ready to fuel fighter aircraft both before, during, and after the peak of the exercise. More than just fuel, the KC-135’s are a real part of the exercise and are often pushed close to the battle, in which case the tension increases dramatically as Red Air may target them and attempt to “shoot them down.” That would be a bad day as the tankers are a vital asset to the USAF global strategy, as is often said in tanker communities, “Nobody kicks ass, without tanker gas!”

F-22A Tyndall AFB, 325 FW incoming.  In Flight Refueling from KC-135 by the 92 ARS Fairchild AFB during Red Flag 15-3.

F-22A Tyndall AFB, 325 FW incoming. In Flight Refueling from KC-135 by the 92 ARS Fairchild AFB during Red Flag 15-3.

It is striking to see the level of responsibility shared with youth (as with all branches of the military services). The boom operator could well be 18 years old, and once the aircraft pull into formation for fuel during flight (typically lined up to the left side of the tanker), the boom operator becomes air traffic control. It is the operators responsibility to contact with the aircraft to start the refueling process, and breaks it off if uncomfortable with the situation (such as heavy turbulence or other). It is inspiring to see hundred million dollar aircraft slide up and count on the boom operator to keep them in the air. Once fueled, they move to the right side of the tanker and wait for their wingman or flight to fuel, and then back to the battle as a team.

F-15C 159 FW, 122 FS US ANG NAS JRB New Orleans.  In Flight Refueling from KC-135 by the 92 ARS Fairchild AFB during Red Flag 15-3.

F-15C 159 FW, 122 FS US ANG NAS JRB New Orleans. In Flight Refueling from KC-135 by the 92 ARS Fairchild AFB during Red Flag 15-3.

Midair refueling appears to be difficult – particularly if one has ever tried it on a flight simulator! However the pilots and boom operator make it look easy. The system is surprisingly resilient, remaining connected even as the tanker and fighter bounce through turbulence together. Through it all the pilot looks as comfortable as any guy in his lay-z-boy recliner watching TV. In this case refueling took place at just over 20,000 ft, and more appreciation for the scope of the exercise is realized as the F-22A Raptor leaves the tanker full of fuel and departs up, up and away. Typically flying close to 50,000 feet (often at supercruise) – the Raptor owns the expansive skies.

F-22A 325 FW 95 FS from Tyndall AFB taking on fuel and then back to the fight. Red Flag 15-3.

F-22A 325 FW 95 FS from Tyndall AFB taking on fuel and then back to the fight. Red Flag 15-3.

Red Flag runs two sorties a day, mid afternoon and evening. At night the exercise takes place under stars and moonlit skies – with very few navigation lights. While battles rage overhead at altitude, strikers pass by low, their identification friend or foe (IFF) strips aglow. HH-60G helicopters fly just above the ground in total darkness, counting on their night vision equipment to complete their missions safely.

F-22A 325 FW 95 FS from Tyndall AFB just opening refueling doors and getting ready to slide in for fuel.

F-22A 325 FW 95 FS from Tyndall AFB just opening refueling doors and getting ready to slide in for fuel.

The scope and complexity of the exercise ensures that participating personnel experience the best possible training, and as Capt. Britt referenced, “I would say at the unit level there is no better training than this in the world. It’s definitely one of those things where there are people who have been to Red Flag and there’s people who haven’t.”

Better to be the one who has.

Special thanks to the entire 99th ABW Public Affairs team and the KC 135 crew, primarily from 92nd ARS.

Todd Miller lives in MD, US where he is an Executive at a Sustainable Cement Technology Company in the USA. When not working, Todd is an avid photographer of military aircraft and content contributor.