USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Ronald Reagan departed Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, Calif. Feb. 17, getting underway to help train pilots from the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS).
Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 is also training instructor pilots to aid the transition from EA-6B Prowler to EA-18G Growler while underway with Ronald Reagan. This marks the first landing of VAQ 129's Growlers aboard an aircraft carrier.
The Navy's newest aircraft, the Growler, is gradually replacing the Prowler airborne electronic attack aircraft, which has been in service since 1971. With the speed and agility of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet that it is based on, the Growler, according to Boeing, will be effective in an escort role as well as its primary role of electronic attack warfare.
The Growler features fly-by-wire technology as opposed to the Prowler's hydraulic system, as well as a host of new and updated computer aids for stand-off and escort radar jamming.
Along with the major upgrades in performance, the Growler also has shown a serious reduction in maintenance time.
"The Prowler averaged about 60 man-hours in the hangar every time it came in for maintenance," said Chief Warrant Officer John Covar, maintenance material control officer for VAQ 129. "The Growler gets it done in less than 11 hours."
The Growlers have been turning heads all over Ronald Reagan, with Sailors lining the catwalks of the ship's superstructure to watch flight operations. "It's really cool," said Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Joshua Smiley of Ronald Reagan's Air Department. "It's awesome how we're using the F/A-18 platform to its full capabilities. It's amazing how they do so much with it."
"I like the aircraft," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (Equipment) Lawrence Haley, leading petty officer for Ronald Reagan's bow catapults. "It looks like a Rhino (F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet) but sounds like a Prowler. It's a beast."
Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Erica Gomes, assistant satellite communications manager for Carrier Strike Group Seven said, "I'm proud to be making history on the Ronald Reagan by hosting the first Growlers. It just sounds like one mean bird."
The Growler is expected to be combat operational in early 2010.
Ronald Reagan is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group Seven and the ninth of ten Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The ship is named for the 40th U.S. president; its motto, "Peace through Strength," was a recurring theme during the Reagan presidency.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) - Ronald Reagan Strike Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.