Boeing is moving the EA-18G Growler into Full Rate Production (FRP) following approval by the U.S. Navy after the aircraft achieved initial operational capability (IOC) on September 22 this year, operating with U.S. Navy electronic attack squadron VAQ-132, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. The first potential deployment of the Growler is slated for 2010, while the Navy expects the Prowler-to-Growler transition to be completed by 2013.
The EA-18G’s was designed to operate either from the deck of an aircraft carrier or from land-based fields. As a fully capable combat aircraft it is capable of delivering a full-spectrum electronic attack capability, including escort jamming, and air defense suppression using precision guided and radar homing weapons. It also has the standard targeting and self-defense capabilities derived from the Navy’s frontline strike fighter, the F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet. The EA-18G aircraft combines the two-seat, twin-engine F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block 2 with the Improved Capability III electronics receiver system from the EA-6B Prowler to provide next-generation electronic attack capability to the warfighter. The AEA package combines the ALQ-218 receiver, ALQ-99 jamming pods, communication countermeasures and satellite communications. Along with the electronic attack suite, the Growler also features the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a game-changing radar in its own right.
The Navy has authorized to procure and produce 54 EA-18G aircraft remaining in the current program of record which includes a total of 88 aircraft; Boeing expects to produce about 20 aircraft per year. The rapid pace will enable the navy to begin the replacement of aging EA-6B Prowler electronic attack aircraft, which remained the only airborne electronic attack (AEA) platform in inventory. The Navy’s first electronic airborne attack aircraft to be manufactured in more than 35 years since the Prowler entered service in 1971.
The first Growler test aircraft went into production October 2004 and made its first flight August 2006. Following the delivery to the fleet in June 2008, the Growler conducted sea trials and entered initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E). The major milestone of IOC marks the end of the IOT&E phase for the Growler program. Boeing, acting as the weapon system integrator and prime contractor, leads the EA-18G Growler industry team, which also includes Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Electric Aircraft Engines.