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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

EA-18G Growler flies for first time

The first EA-18G Growler, EA-1, takes off from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
The U.S. Navy's newest aircraft, the EA-18G Growler, took to the air for the first time Tuesday from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, beginning a new era for Airborne Electronic Attack.

Boeing F/A-18 Chief Test Pilot Ricardo Traven and Chief Weapons System Operator Rick Junkin conducted the flight. The first EA-18G, known as aircraft EA-1, is the first of two test aircraft built under a System Development and Demonstration contract Boeing signed with the Navy on Dec. 29, 2003.

Several members of the Growler team were on hand as the aircraft lifted off, including Boeing EA-18G Program Manager Mike Gibbons, who said of the flight, "This is what we've worked so hard for three years to accomplish. And to do this [one month] ahead of schedule and within budget is a tribute to the entire team."

Junkin said of his role as the electronic countermeasures officer, "The AEA systems are very intuitive to operate and provide the situational awareness to execute the mission more effectively than anything the AEA community has seen before."

Traven echoed Junkin's words, calling the flight "a new chapter in the F/A-18 history book. In the EA world, I feel that the integration of the systems is such a leap in modernization that it's not a new chapter in the EA history book, but the first page in a new book."

A derivative of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet, the EA-18G's highly flexible design enables warfighters to perform an array of AEA missions, operating from either the deck of an aircraft carrier or land-based airfields. The EA-18G will replace the Navy's current aircraft-carrier-based AEA platform, the EA-6B Prowler, that has been in service since 1971. The first production Growler will join the Navy's aircraft fleet in 2008.

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