A U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler flies over Afghanistan on Jan. 23, 2020. (Staff Sgt. Matthew Lotz / U.S. Air Force)

A U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler flies over Afghanistan on Jan. 23, 2020. (Staff Sgt. Matthew Lotz / U.S. Air Force)

Growlers are getting upgrades at Naval Air Station Whidbey

The work is part of a five-year effort to improve the jamming capacity of the aircraft.

By Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

Work has started at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island on a five-year effort to improve the jamming capacity of the EA-18G Growlers, signaling the Navy’s commitment to the future of the aircraft.

Boeing announced earlier this month that the first jet was inducted into “Growler capacity modification” at the air station. It’s the first major effort to upgrade the electronic warfare capabilities of the Growlers, which are currently outfitted with tactical jamming system pods that have been in use since the 1970s, according to the Navy.

The work supports the integration of the Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band pods, which are being developed to augment and ultimately replace the current pods, according to Gulianna Dunn, public affairs officer with the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft Programs.

“These modifications allow the Growler community to maintain the advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum environment and lay the groundwork for future upgrades to keep the aircraft relevant into the 2040s,” Dunn said in comments to the newspaper.

Growlers are modified versions of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornets and are the backbone of the Navy’s electronic warfare programs, serving “a critical role in jamming radar and communications signals of threat forces, hindering their ability to detect and track U.S. and allied military forces,” according to Dunn.

The new-generation pods are currently undergoing developmental testing on the Growlers and will be initially deployed with fleet Growlers after completion of operational testing, according to Dunn.

In addition to facilitating the new pods, the aircraft will receive modifications to expand the Growler’s information pipeline “for more rapid and secure data transfer to other aircraft and platforms as well as substantially improve the speed of data processing,” Boeing reported.

The modifications will eventually be made on all 160 of the Navy’s Growlers.

“As the world’s premier electronic attack platform, we’re starting this program for the EA-18G Growler in solid partnership with the Navy,” said Mark Sears, Boeing vice president of Fighters & Strike Product Support.

“These modifications will position it to meet the threats of today and those in the future.”

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.

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