U.S. Navy leaders want to purchase additional EA-18G Growlers and increase Electronic Attack Squadron size.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told lawmakers March 12 that he sees a “growing Growler need,” according to news reports.
The move, according to the Navy, would both protect the nation’s industrial base and provide it with the electronic warfare capability it will need in the coming decades.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said that, “today we have the minimum numbers in each squadron,” which is five, and that, “looking in the future, we don’t think electronic attack is going to get any smaller.”
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] line in business,” Greenert said.
Boeing’s production line for the Growler and the similar FA-18E Super Hornet in St. Louis will run out of 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 Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
The twin-seat Growler provides the electronic jamming capability used in tandem with other aircraft to optimize fighting efficiency.
The Whidbey airbase is the only installation where Growlers are home -based. The Navy started an Environmental Impact Statement in July about the Growler’s presence on the island and at Outlying Field Coupeville.
Ted Brown, installations and environmental public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said he was aware of the Navy’s budget priority for the Growlers, but said 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.”