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Building begins Growler era
When the first EA-18G Growler arrives at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station next June, the base will be ready to support the high-tech aircraft from the ground.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the EA-18G Growler Support Center at NAS Whidbey brought Navy personnel, community members and industry specialists out on a blustery Halloween afternoon.
This is a great event and a big day for us, said Bob Papadakis, Boeing Company EA-18G NAS Whidbey Integration Lead.
Capt. Gerral David, NAS Whidbey Commanding Officer, said Wednesday marked the beginning of a long partnership with Boeing that will benefit the base and the local community, and not just with the Growler. He said that while the Navy has not decided where all of the P-8A Multi-Mission Aircraft will be stationed, each alternative generated has at least some of the Boeing airplanes coming to Oak Harbor. The P-8A will replace the P-3 Orion.
This is just the beginning of Boeings presence on this base, David said. What better day than Halloween to break ground on a facility for an airplane that is going to haunt our enemies for its entire life.
Capt. Thomas Tack, Electronic Attack Wing Commander, said preparation for the Growler transition has largely taken place behind the scenes thus far. Standing on the future site of the support center brought realness to the future.
Today we get to see a visible, tangible step in the direction to our transition, he said. Its going to take us about four years to complete this transition and today is kind of step one.
The first jet will arrive at NAS Whidbey in June and the Navy will rapidly transition 10 squadrons in a four-and-a-half-year timeframe starting in September of next year. The Growlers are scheduled to be deployed in 2010, and the Navy has agreed to buy a total of 85 by 2013, although the timeline is flexible.
This community is going to rapidly transition to a more tactically-significant, more survivable and more maintainable airplane, Tack said. And were grateful for that. Were going to find this airplane to be absolutely phenomenal as we move forward into the 21st century with it.
Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen assured the Boeing reps that their plane would be in the best of the best hands.
Burlingtons Interwest Construction is taking on the project and the facility will be completed in May 2008.
The Navy paid $1.2 billion to develop the EA-18G, and the purchase contract is approximately $8 billion. The planes themselves cost about $60 million apiece, but the Navys contract includes the cost of training and support to deploy the aircraft.
The Growler combines the state-of-the-art, two-seat twin-engine F/A-18F Block Two Super Hornet with the EA-6B Improved Capability III system, providing next-generation electronic attack capability to the long-awaited replacement aircraft.
The EA-18G is being built by the industry team of Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Electric Aircraft Engines, Raytheon, and nearly 1,800 other suppliers.