An EA-18G Growler attached to VAQ 129, successfully completed a functional check flight at NAS Whidbey Island, Oct. 17, marking the end of a complex transformation process for an aircraft thought to be beyond repair.
An EA-18G Growler attached to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, successfully completed a functional check flight at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Oct. 17, marking the end of a complex transformation process for an aircraft thought to be beyond repair. This five-year effort demonstrates large-scale teamwork between multiple organizations over an extended timeline.
According to a press release from Commander Naval Air Forces Public Affairs, the aircraft, then attached to the “Wizards” of VAQ-133, was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft attached to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 at NAS Fallon during a training event on Sep. 14, 2017. Both aircraft landed safely and the aircrew were uninjured. The Growler remained at NAS Fallon for several years, as refurbishment of this nature had never been done before and there were no processes or procedures on exactly how the repairs could be completed.
Upon initial inspection, there was little hope the aircraft would be fit to fly due to the complexity of the repairs required following the mishap, as well as weather damage from years of sitting in a desert environment. However, after thorough analysis and continued coordination, the Growler’s road to recovery began when clearance for repair was granted in 2021. In February of that year, the aircraft was loaded onto a flatbed truck and transferred to the Fleet Replacement Squadron, VAQ-129, at NAS Whidbey Island.
Classified as a “special rework,” funding was approved and a long-term hangar space was identified for the unprecedented project. For more than a year, engineers, maintainers and artisans from facilities across the US collaborated to develop processes, complete repairs and thoroughly inspect the recovered aircraft – more than 2,000 man hours in total.
“This was a team effort by personnel from Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) Southeast, FRC Southwest Engineering and my team from FRC Northwest,” said Tommy Moore, depot lead for FRC Northwest.“We reassembled the aircraft by replacing all major components and turned the aircraft back over to VAQ-129 as a ‘special rework’ complete on April 24, 2022.”
The Growler will soon be transferred to an operational squadron in order to deploy around the globe and be ready to conduct flight operations for decades to come.
As already reported, the aircraft has only 1640 flight hours on the airframe so it has a lot of life left in service to the country.
The Growler Capability Modification (GCM) Program, the first major effort to upgrade EA-18G capabilities in the history of the program, commenced at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, in March 2021. The multi-year program is comprised of various engineering change proposals across several of the aircraft’s systems in common with the F/A-18E/F Block III. GCM will also provide the warfighter with a significant leap in electronic warfare capability to improve combat support for the Joint U.S. and Allied forces, which includes integration of the Next Generation Jammer-Mid Band.
Growler Block II (GB2) is currently in development and will include spiral (phase-based) improvements. GB2 Phase 1 will provide dramatic upgrades to aircraft processing and electronic warfare algorithms, alongside additional upgrades like the Advanced Cockpit System. These enhancements to the Airborne Electronic Attack suite will enable the EA-18G to outpace current threats and maintain the lead throughout its planned lifecycle.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy