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Navy wants to add 22 Growlers to fleet

An EA-18G Growler performs a touch and go at Outlying Field Coupeville, part of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Navy leadership has expressing interest in purchasing another 22 jets from Boeing. - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
An EA-18G Growler performs a touch and go at Outlying Field Coupeville, part of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Navy leadership has expressing interest in purchasing another 22 jets from Boeing.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

Navy leaders say they want to purchase additional EA-18G Growlers and increase the size of their electronic attack squadrons.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told federal lawmakers March 12 that he sees a “growing Growler need,” according to aviation industry website FlightGlobal.

Twelve electronic warfare squadrons, comprising both Growlers and EA-6B Prowlers, are based at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Ted Brown, installations and environmental public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said he is aware of the Navy’s budget priority with regard to the Growlers, but that it would be difficult to comment on how the additional aircraft would affect NAS Whidbey operations until the contract is funded.

“Since this request has not been funded I cannot speculate on when — or how — this would be addressed,” Brown said.

“If and when these aircraft are funded and purchased, the Navy will address their home basing appropriately under the National Environmental Policy Act.”

The Growler acquisitions would both protect the nation’s industrial base and provide the U.S. military with the electronic warfare capability it will need in the coming decades, according to Navy officials.

“Today we have the minimum numbers in each squadron,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. “Looking in the future, we don’t think electronic attack is going to get any smaller.”

Currently, each squadron has five Growlers, according to Navy figures.

The Navy is seeking to include 22 additional Growlers in its “unfunded” requirements request for fiscal year 2015. That document, which must still be approved by military leaders, includes items that were not in the military’s original budget request released earlier this month.

Greenert calls the request a “hedge and risk-reduction” effort, adding that the Navy is “very mindful of the industrial base.”

The federal government is also “working on things like foreign military sales to keep that (Boeing Co.) line in business,” Greenert said.

Boeing’s production line for the Growler and similar F/A-18F Super Hornet in St. Louis will run out of production work in the third quarter of 2016 if the company does not receive additional orders from domestic or foreign militaries.

Australia became the Growler’s first foreign customer last year, purchasing 12 of the aircraft and initiating a training program through NAS Whidbey.

The twin-seat Growler provides the electronic jamming capability used in conjunction with other aircraft to optimize fighting efficiency.

NAS Whidbey is the only installation where Growlers are home based.

The Navy started an Environmental Impact Statement in July about the Growlers basing at NAS Whidbey.

 

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