JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- A detachment of 10 EA-18G Growlers assigned to the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 "Vikings" is conducting pilot and naval flight officer training from Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Fla., through Dec. 16.
VAQ-129 is the fleet replacement squadron for the Navy's electronic attack wing based aboard NAS Whidbey Island, Wash.
Lt. James Cataline, officer in charge of the detachment, said the clear, dry weather of Northeast Florida makes for a good training environment.
"During this time of year at NAS Whidbey Island, our forecasts range from 'mostly cloudy with a chance of precipitation to rain likely with lows in the mid-30s', so flying conditions at NAS Jax are more favorable for our needs," said Cataline.
He said the Navy's electronic attack wing is in its second year of executing the sundown plan for the 40-year-old Northrup Grumman EA-6B Prowler and the acceptance of new Boeing EA-18G Growlers.
"Until the transition is complete in 2015, VAQ-129 is training operators and maintainers for both platforms -what we call the 'B-side' and the 'G-side,'" said Cataline. "This is a G-side detachment comprised of about 45 pilots and NFOs honing their skills in factory fresh Growlers.
"This training det marks our newly winged students' completion of classroom and simulator training - now they get to fly with an instructor. We work them through the FAM phase (familiarization) and the FORM phase (formation flying) according to the CAT I (Category One) syllabus - so good air space and weather is paramount," said Cataline.
Some students are experienced operators from the "Black Ravens" of fleet squadron VAQ-135, who began their G-side transition in November. When their CAT II training is complete, the Black Ravens will be assigned five EA-18Gs and become the Navy's fourth operational Growler squadron.
In addition to pilot and EWO (electronic warfare officers) training, the squadron also brought along instructors under training (IUT) for basic fighter maneuvering qualifications. While at NAS Jax, VAQ-129 also sent a three-Growler det for pilot carrier qualifications on board USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).
Cataline added that two Growlers from the detachment will perform the fly-over at EverBank Field for the Dec. 12 NFL game between the Jaguars and the Raiders.
"The air ops department of NAS Jax has been extremely helpful and great to work with, so it's turning out to be a great det," said Cataline.
For more news from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, visit www.navy.mil/local/nasjax/.