OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island ushered in the next generation of naval electronic attack aircraft with the official arrival of its first EA-18G Growler, June 3.
The event marks the beginning of the long awaited transition to the Growler from the Vietnam-era EA-6B Prowler.
Presiding over the event were the Honorable Donald Winter, Secretary of the Navy; Jim Albaugh, executive vice president of The Boeing Company; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Capt. Bradley Russell, commodore of Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CVWP); and Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik.
"Thank you for inviting me to witness this landmark event in aviation history. Today marks the culmination point in a largely untold success story that began more than 17 years ago," said Winter. "I am pleased to note that this has been a success story and an excellent example of Navy contractor teamwork and collaboration. By leveraging and evolving legacy programs, the F-18 as a platform, and significant payload components from the EA-6B, this program now stands as a model case of what can be achieved."
As a more advanced and user-friendly aircraft, the Growler will only require two-man flight crews vice four for the Prowler. In the EA-6B, a pilot, navigator, and two electronic countermeasures officers were needed. The improved capability of the Growler requires less manpower, with only a pilot and an electronic warfare officer for in-flight missions.
"I've flown it, and I can tell you that both the naval flight officer in the back seat and the naval aviator in the front are going to be busy with their new responsibilities. There's going to be more information than you could possibly imagine at your fingertips," said Russell. "This is a big, fast, highly maneuverable jet that's going to give you total situational awareness to the battle-space out there. I tell you this: you're going to love your new office; however, let me caution you, crawl before you walk and walk before you run."
The Navy has placed an order of approximately 85 Growler aircraft. Of the 85, five will go to each of the 10 deploying Electronic Attack Squadrons (VAQ) and 12 are anticipated at the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), VAQ-129. Upon acceptance of this aircraft by CVWP it will be used by VAQ-129 to train their flight crews to ensure they can proficiently train the remaining squadrons. The first deploying squadron to receive the Growler will be VAQ-132, in 2009.
"The full extent of the Growler's extraordinary capabilities cannot be disclosed, but we can say that this next generation aircraft is in a class by itself, combining airborne electronic attack with the newest technologies that belong to the Super Hornet Block II," said Winter.
Today the Growler and its pilots are poised to forge a game-changing path in the history of air warfare, cited Winter. "This platform is a direct threat to current and potential enemies, and it represents a quantum advance in warfare capability in the electronic domain."
For more news from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, visit www.navy.mil/local/naswhidbey/.