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Prowler's heir now apparent

For more than a year there has been speculation that the EA-6B Prowler’s successor would be a variation of the F/A-18F Super Hornet. Now it’s official, with a request for funding of the so-called “Growlers” submitted to Congress.

“A variant of the F/A-18 airframe, the EA-18G Growler, has been selected as the Navy platform to replace the aging EA-6B Prowler,” Secretary of the Navy Hansford Johnson told the House Armed Services Committee when submitting the Navy’s budget to Congress.

“By using a common airframe, the EA-6B follow-on will deliver at lower cost while providing growth potential for improved future electronic warfare systems,” he said.

Navy officials made the decision official May 27 with a public presentation on the details of the plane.

The EA-18G is a supersonic two-crew electronics counter-measures aircraft which is louder, faster and more maneuverable than the EA-6B, Boeing project manager Paul Summers told the Whidbey News-Times last spring.

The EA-18G will be manufactured by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, based in St. Louis. Boeing has been testing the “Growler” since 1993.

The Prowlers’ replacement will be the EA-18G, but don’t look for it to be roaring over Whidbey Island soon, if at all. The first EA-18Gs will begin replacing the Prowlers in 2009, according to a recent Navy Times article, but whether they will be based at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is still unknown.

“I am confident that NAS Whidbey is the best home for the Growlers,” Rep. Rick Larsen said Tuesday. “However, I do not take anything for granted. I am closely monitoring the Navy’s process for this decision.” The fate of NAS Whidbey would be uncertain without a commitment to base the EA-18G here.

Johnson said the EA-6Bs will continue to be flown by the Marine Corps until approximately 2014 or 2015 before transitioning to the EA-18Gs. How that will affect NAS Whidbey is also unknown at this time.

NAS Whidbey spokesperson Kim Martin said the base’s Prowlers are part of the improved capabilities, or ICAP, programs, which is upgrading equipment in the aging Prowlers. Upgrades allow aviators to more quickly change jamming frequencies to match modern enemy radars, according to Navy Times reports.

Martin said no one was available at the base Tuesday who could comment on the Prowler replacement plan.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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