EL CENTRO, Calif. (NNS) -- The first detachment from Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 completed two weeks of familiarization training on the new EA-18G Growler aircraft at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro Oct. 29.
VAQ-129 "Vikings" is a fleet replacement squadron (FRS) and the first electronic attack squadron to transition from the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft to the EA-18G Growler.
The EA-18G Growler is an electronic attack version of the F/A-18F Super Hornet and will replace existing EA-6B Prowlers completely within the next several years. Having completed their proficiency training, "Vikings" flight crews will be responsible for training additional Growler squadrons as they are phased in to service.
"We are doing a lot of instructor training with the Growler platform to make sure we understand, execute and instruct all the different missions before the first student pilots check in," said Lt. Adam Drayton, a native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., and a VAQ-129 pilot instructor. "We are getting ourselves up to speed with the aircraft and its new advanced capabilities."
Drayton said the training has been challenging for pilots and aircrew to combine both electronic-attack mission experience and fighter mission experience into a single aircraft platform.
"Aircrew who have a lot of Prowler experience obviously have a good knowledge base of electronic-attack missions," said Drayton. "Pilots like me, who have fighter experience, know the aircraft pretty well from flying the F/A-18E and F models, but we don't know the electronic-attack mission."
Both the Prowler and Growler aircraft were designed for airborne electronic-attack missions, but advances in technology make the Growler more user-friendly and capable of completing the missions required of the Navy today. Technology has also allowed the Navy to reduce the number of crewmen needed to fly the aircraft and operate the electronic countermeasures from four people to two.
"Growler is made for electronic-attack in suppression of enemy defenses, and both [Prowler and Growler] will execute those missions," said Drayton. "The biggest difference in the technology is how the Growler gives us more situational awareness. It helps us to do all the same missions but hopefully do them a lot better. It also adds air-to-air capabilities and air-to-ground capabilities, so we are able to carry air-to-air missiles and do basic fighter maneuvers."
Growler maintenance personnel also received critical training during the two-week period. Chief Aviation Maintenance Administrationman (AW) Steve Gauslow, a native of Laurel, Mont., and VAQ-129 maintenance control chief said the transition went well for all of the Sailors the training.
According to Gauslow, the Growler requires significantly less maintenance man-hours thanks to advancements in on-board computer diagnostic systems.
"Everything is electronic; the aircraft tells the technicians and maintainers exactly where a potential deficiency is located in the plane," said Gauslow.
VAQ-129 currently has two EA-18G Growlers and is scheduled to receive a third in November.
VAQ-129 is scheduled to begin training crewmen from VAQ-132 early next year and will also be the first deploying squadron to receive the Growler.
"It's great to be flying a new aircraft with so much new capabilities and we are looking forward to the future," Drayton said. "Just seeing it progress and become one of the premier aircraft in our fleet is amazing."
For more news from Naval Air Forces, visit www.navy.mil/local/airpac/.