The Boeing EA-18G Growler is a carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, a specialized version of the earlier two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet. The EA-18G replaces the EA-6B Prowlers in service with the United States Navy. Production for the EA-18G began in 2007 and the aircraft entered operational service in late 2009.
The first Growler for fleet use was accepted by VAQ-129 "Vikings" at NAS Whidbey Island, in June 2008. At the time, the Navy planned to buy approximately 85 aircraft to equip 11 squadrons. The EA-18G completed operational evaluation in late July 2009. In 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 aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). The first deployable EA-18G squadron was VAQ-132 "Scorpions," which reached operational status in October 2009.
The EA-18G was first used in combat during Operation Odyssey Dawn, enforcing the UN no-fly zone over Libya. The five EA-18Gs of VAQ-132 were redeployed from Iraq to Italy to support Libya operations.
In 2008, the Australian government requested export approval from the US government to purchase up to six EA-18Gs, which would be part of the order for 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets. It was announced that 12 RAAF Super Hornets would be fitted with Growler capability, making the Australian Air force the only military other than the U.S. to operate the Growler's electronic jamming equipment.
The box is full of plastic!! Fourteen light grey plastic sprues carry the parts of this model. The clear parts are bagged separately. The decals are included on a large sheet with markings for two variations for the same aircraft, and stencils for one aircraft. Several of the sprues have been previously issued in the F-18E and -F versions. Parts specific to the “G” model are included on new sprues.
All the parts are finely molded with fine panel lines and no discernible flash. The build will result in several spare parts (underwing fuel tanks and ALQ-99 pods). The instructions are included in the typical Hasegawa fashion of eight fold-out pages. Each step is shown in an exploded view with part numbers and suggested paint colors clearly noted. Several of the steps will also note the locations for decals (i.e. the landing gear and cockpit).
Take time to review the instructions, as some raised details need to be removed, openings filled, and a few recessed panel lines filled.
The two-seat cockpit includes finely detailed, multi-part ejection seats, separate instrument panels, and a control column for the pilot. Decals are provided for the instrument panels and side consoles. The clear canopy may be posed open or closed, and does require the careful removal of a molding seam along the top surface. I removed the seam using progressively finer sanding media, followed by a wash with Windex and a dip in Future. Amazingly enough, the clear parts came out perfect after only two tries!!
The cockpit tub is trapped between the two nose halves. Pilots figures are also included, each with slightly different arms, plus a choice (current and new-style) of helmets. Adding seat belts and harnesses will finish off the cockpit quite nicely.
The main fuselage is split into top and bottom halves, plus a three-part nose section. Since the nose portion was originally issued with the E and F versions, it is not quite correct for the G. The gun vents located on the undersides are not present on the Growler. The modeler will need to fill in the vents (I became aware of this distinction too late for this project). The engine intakes are full depth and will require some effort and patience to eliminate two (per side) potentially noticeable seams from the inlet to the turbine face. Holes must be opened on the top, bottom, and sides of the fuselage for parts specific to the EA-18G. Joints will require some care and effort to eliminate the potential for steps in the model’s surface. I did add some weight in the nose section to guarantee the model would set properly on its landing gear.
Several small antenna housings must be added to the Growler’s fuselage surface, some of which are rather tiny; care must be taken during the cleanup process to avoid losing those parts.
The wings may be fixed in a folded configuration by cutting along a panel line. Openings (holes and slots) must be cut in the bottom side of the wings before the top and bottom are glued together for later installation of underwing stores and upperwing fences. Each opening is clearly marked on the interior surfaces of the wings’ parts.
Wing flaps and leading edges are comprised of two parts each and may be posed dropped or neutral. If the flaps are installed in a dropped position, care will be required for a secure mounting and proper alignment between the large hinges and trailing flaps.
The underwing pylons, once installed, will have the correct splayed-out configuration as on the real F-18’s and EA-18G. This appears odd, but is correct.
Underwing stores include two ALG-99 High Band jamming pods, two AGM-88E AARGM missiles, two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, two 480 gallon fuel tanks, plus a centerline ALQ-99 Low Band jamming pod. This is an impressive array once in place.
Two paint schemes for VAQ-132 Scorpions COMVAQWINGPAC are shown, one with the black vertical stabilizers and the other with a multi-color camouflage stabilizers. Both schemes are the FS 36320 grey over FS 36375 grey. I used Poly Scale paints for the aircraft exterior. The paint was sealed with several coats of Alclad Aqua Gloss Clear.
The large decal sheet is complete with several stencils, slime lights, national insignia, plus aircraft-specific markings. The aircraft that I chose to model uses a brown color for national insignias, aircraft number, and other markings and some stencils. The decals worked quite well on a glossy surface. I spent about four hours decaling this model. The surface was next sealed with a coat of Model Master Acryl Flat Finish.
Overall, this was a very nice project and I enjoyed the effort. Everything fit almost perfectly. This model is recommended for anyone with some skills and experience only because of the many parts. The end result is a fine model of a very modern electronics warfare aircraft.
I wish to thank Hobbico and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review and build this product. And a most special THANK YOU to Carol Pesch at Hobbico for her generous help in quickly resolving an issue of my modeling skills’ incompetence. You saved the day.