Dragon 1/144 EA-18G 'Growler'
|DECALS:||One option per aircraft|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Two full kits|
The EA-18G Growler is an electronic attack version of the F/A-18F. The Growler's flight performance is similar to that of the F/A-18E/F. This attribute enables the Growler to perform escort jamming as well as the traditional standoff jamming mission. Growlers will be able to accompany F/A-18s during all phases of an attack mission.
The Growler has more than 90% in common with the standard Super Hornet, sharing airframe, Raytheon AN/APG-79 AESA radar and weapon systems such as the AN/AYK-22 Stores Management System. Most of the dedicated airborne electronic attack equipment is mounted in the space that used to house the internal 20 mm cannon and on the wingtips. Nine weapons stations remain free to provide for additional weapons or jamming pods. The added electronics include AN/ALQ-218 wideband receivers on the wingtips, and ALQ-99 high and low-band tactical jamming pods. The ALQ-218 combined with the ALQ-99 form a full spectrum electronic warfare suite that is able to provide detection and jamming against all known surface-to-air threats.
The EA-18G can be fitted with up to five ALQ-99 jamming pods and will typically add two AIM-120 self-defense missiles and two AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation (HARM) missiles. The EA-18G will also use the INCANS Interference Cancellation system that will allow voice communication while jamming enemy communications, a capability not available on the EA-6B.
In addition to the radar warning and jamming equipment the Growler possesses a communications receiver and jamming system that will provide suppression and electronic attack against airborne communication threats.
Boeing is looking into other potential upgrades; the ALQ-99 radar jamming pod may be replaced in the future, and the company is looking into adding weapons and replacing the satellite communications receiver. The Growler is the initial platform for the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) which uses Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology to focus jamming power exactly where needed. The NGJ will also be implemented on the F-35. Boeing is also looking at exporting a Growler Lite configuration without the jamming pods for electronic awareness rather than electronic attack.
The poor reliability of the ALQ-99 and frequent failures of the Built In self Test (BIT) have caused crew to fly missions with real faults, the ALQ-99 also interferes with the aircraft's AESA radar, reduces the top speed of the aircraft and imposes a high workload on the two man crew.
The first Growler for fleet use was officially accepted by VAQ-129 "Vikings" at NAS Whidbey Island, on 3 June 2008. The Navy planned to buy approximately 85 aircraft to equip 11 squadrons as of 2008.
Similar to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet's "Rhino" callsign, for flight operations the EA-18 will be called the "Grizzly" over the radio. The "Growler" nickname sounded too much like the EA-6B's "Prowler" name, so "Grizzly" will be used to avoid confusion.
The EA-18G completed operational evaluation successfully in late July 2009. The Growler was rated operationally effective and suitable for operational use. On 5 August 2009, EA-18G Growlers from Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) and Electronic Attack Squadron 132 (VAQ-132) completed their first at-sea carrier-arrested landing (trap) aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). The first deployable EA-18G squadron is to be VAQ-132 "Scorpions", which reached operational status in October 2009. Other units operating the EA-18G are VAQ-141, VAQ-138, and VAQ-135 with VAQ-130 coming on line in 2011.
The Navy's submission for the 2011 defense budget put forth by the Obama Administration calls for the addition of four EA-18G Growler squadrons to be added to the fleet. On 14 May 2010, Boeing and the US Department of Defense reached an agreement for a multi-year contract for an additional 66 F/A-18E/Fs and 58 EA-18Gs over the next four years. This will raise the total to 114 EA-18Gs on order.
Dragon has to be the leader in producing military aircraft in 1/144 scale. At least modern military aircraft, as their catalogue shows it has Hornets, Tomcats, Eagles, Harriers, and Falcons, to name a few. To provide a perception of value, Dragon has recently been putting two aircraft into their newest boxings. These generally retail around the $15 dollar range and one has to wonder how much of this is due to the greedy lawyers at Boeing in terms of having to pay licensing fees on each kit.
Anyway, the sprues are quite nicely detailed with engraved panel lines which, while grossly out of scale as you'd expect, do provide what modelers want and look very nice once under a coat of paint. Naturally, the kits are designed to make conversion to the F-18G a snap by simply adding another upper fuselage insert for the longer cockpit section. The cockpit is pretty much devoid of panel detail, though you do get a believable bang seat, control stick, and instrument panel. As you might expect, the tub is for the two seat plane, but one simply puts a piece in there to cover it up as would be required for the F-18E
The wings can be displayed with the tips folded if you want, and it is on these folded sections that I found the only molding glitch, a slight sink area near the hinge. There are a complete set of pylonsprovided though not all will be filled with available ordnance. There are drop tanks for the inboard wing stations and jamming pods for the next ones out and the centerline. HARMS are included for the outer pylons. The wing tip missile rails are to be cut off and replaced by pods. These pods have tiny fins to be attached. Landing gear are well done for this scale and appear to be quite robust. This is topped by a clear one-piece canopy.
Markings are nicely printed and are for two aircraft. One is for VX-9, the operational test squadron while the other is the CAG bird for VAQ-141 'Shadowhawks', the second operational fleet squadron. The fins and upper spine will need to be painted black on this one. The usual Gunze paint references are provided as well as FS 595, which is good as Gunze is getting very scarce in the US.
1/144 modern jet fans will be very pleased with this one. It is well molded and comes with a pair of nice markings options. You can bet that you'll be seeing the full range of units once more transition over.
Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. Get yours at your favorite retailer.
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