Navy EA-18G Growler Sports Puzzling Mi-24 Hind Kill Mark Overseas

The electronic warfare jet with the mark belongs to the “Zappers” of VAQ-130, which is attached to the USS Eisenhower.

byHoward Altman, Joseph Trevithick, Tyler Rogoway|
A Navy Growler electronic attack jet now sports a Hind helicopter "kill mark"
U.S. Air Force
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A U.S. Air Force photograph released earlier this month shows a Navy EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft bearing a 'kill mark' of a Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopter.

The photo, taken at “an undisclosed location in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility” on May 2nd and published today, shows an aircrew undergoing a pre-flight check of the Growler. The EA-18G with the kill mark belongs to the "Zappers" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130, which deployed aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike) during its recent cruise to the Middle East.

It's worth noting that aircraft in the carrier's air wing will sometimes detach to land bases for forward operations. This is especially true for the electronic attack community. This image could have been taken under other circumstances, as well. In this case, additional images showing the Growlers operating with F-15Es, which have been flying primarily out of their forward base in Jordan, points to that being the case.

U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles from Royal Air Force Lakenheath's 494th Fighter Squadron conduct a formation flight with a U.S. Navy E/A-18G Growler, over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, May 2, 2024. The U.S. maintains a highly agile fighting force, which leverages the most advanced training and platforms to dominate the warfighting landscape for the long-term security and stability of the region. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

There is a long tradition of kill marks being stenciled onto aircraft, vessels and other military equipment indicating the destruction of enemy equipment. In March, for instance, we wrote about U.S. Navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornets deployed aboard the Ike were adorned to commemorate the downing of Houthi drones. That followed kill marks seen on warships that swatted down similar threats in the region.

Drone kill marks on F/A-18E Super Hornet from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. U.S. Navy USN

This is the first time, however, we have seen a Growler that was present in the region where these actions have taken place with a kill mark. Growlers, as well as Super Hornets have also been part of force packages used to strike Houthi targets ashore in Yemen.

We don’t know if the kill mark indicates the downing of a Hind,, whether one was the subject of some kind of electronic attack or whether it was an indicator of a training exercise 'kill.' There's an A-10 out there with F-16 and F-22 'kill' marks from training events, for instance. Peter Steehouwer, who specializes in aviation photography, was kind enough to share an image of that, which you can see below:

An A-10 Warthog sporting F-22 and F-16 kill marks at Yuma Airshow 2019, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma. Courtesy of Peter Steehouwer

It's not an uncommon practice. It’s also worth mentioning that Mi-24 Hinds take part as aggressors playing mock hostile aircraft in major training exercises, most notably the Marines’ Weapons Tactics Instructor (WTI) course that occurs primarily out of Yuma, Arizona throughout the year. It’s possible that this was a holdover from such an event, although it seems odd the jet would have retained these markings during deployment.

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Brian Clegg, with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1), prepares to fly a Russian Mil Mi-24 Hind during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 1-16 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Oct. 9, 2015. The exercise is part of Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) 1-16, a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics. (U.S. Marine Corps photograph by SSgt. Artur Shvartsberg, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/ Released)

If indeed the EA-18G shot down an enemy Hind, this would be a new development and could be the first true aerial kill for the Growler. It's also possible that Growlers have shot down Houthi drones prior to this kill, but we just don't know about it yet. We also have no idea who the helicopter belonged to when it was engaged and where, if indeed one was shot down.

This development also comes as the Growlers are getting expanded air-to-air missile capabilities via additional AIM-120 AMRAAM carriage options. 

A U.S. Navy E/A-18G Growler approaches before conducting a formation flight with U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles from Royal Air Force Lakenheath's 494th Fighter Squadron, over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, May 2, 2024. The U.S. maintains a highly agile fighting force, which leverages the most advanced training and platforms to dominate the warfighting landscape for the long-term security and stability of the region. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

We reached out to U.S. Central Command, Naval Forces Central Command, the 6th Fleet, VAQ-130 and the Ike to find out more details.

Editor's note: Shout out to @intelwalrus for spotting this image!

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

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