Electronic warfare is all the rage these days, and Chinese weapons are packed with electronics. With the unveiling of the newest Chinese weapons platform, here are some similarities and differences between the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growler and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF’s) Shenyang J-16D.


Shenyang J-16D 

China began development on the Shenyang J-16 multirole strike fighter in the mid-2010s. Based on the Chinese version of the Russian Sukhoi Su-27, China took the jet, license-produced it as the J-11, then developed that into the J-16 strike jet, which was introduced into the PLAAF in 2015. 

Fast forward to 2021, when the Chinese debuted the Shenyang J-16D at the Zhuhai airshow on September 28. Built off the J-16 platform, the J-16D is a twin-seat, twin-engine, multirole fighter, with “advanced” electronic warfare capabilities. Quotation marks are used because, as with many Chinese weapons and systems, there are no real indications yet that the aircraft performs as expected.

The J-16 standard model comes equipped with wingtip-mounted missile rails, a 30mm cannon, and mounted infrared imaging cameras. On display in Zhuhai, the 16D variant, tail number 0109, has swapped the missile rails for pods, removed the cannon and IR camera, and has two added pods at stations under the engines. Those pods likely contain electronic warfare capabilities. It is believed that the pods are similar to the EA-18G’s electronic warfare package. Though the cannon has been removed, the Chinese fighter still acts as a weapon, most likely capable of carrying mounted missiles, much like the EA-18G. 

Shenyang J-16D
Shenyang J-16D at Zhuhai Airshow, 2021. (Chinese Social Media)


EA-18G Growler

The U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growler is the successor to the EA-6B Prowler, the Navy and Marine Corps’ purpose-built electronic warfare craft. Developed in the 1960s, the EA-6B was an Electronic Warfare (EW) workhorse for naval forces for almost 60 years. First deployed in Vietnam, the Prowler also flew missions in Grenada, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, even acting as an airborne counter-IED platform, jamming remote signals used to detonate Improvised Explosive Devices. Now, the EA-18G has picked up this mission.