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A recent report by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) says that while the U.S. Navy has continued to make improvements to its F/A-18 electronic attack variant (EA-18G Growler), the service has yet to prove the aircraft is suitable for operations.
At the same time, DOT&E notes another Navy electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler, is suitable, despite testing limitations faced by the program.
DOT&E notes “suitability problems” that were identified during Growler testing in 2008. The Navy conducted Verification of Correction of Deficiencies (VCD) testing on the EA-18G from September 2009 to January 2010 to resolve those issues.
“The VCD test results did confirm significant progress on improving suitability, but additional development and testing are needed,” DOT&E notes in its most recent report, released in January. “The EA-18G is operationally effective, but still not operationally suitable.”
In DOT&E’s parlance, “operationally effective” simply means the system can perform its mission. “Operationally suitable” means the system will be practical and supportable in the field.
As far as the Navy is concerned, the Growler’s initial operational test and evaluation proved it is both operationally effective and suitable. “From what we understand, DOT&E included items outside the specific scope of [the] test for the EA-18G program into its findings,” the service says in a statement. “Although these items were outside the scope of the development program, they are items DOT&E felt important enough to address from a Department of Defense perspective.
“No program ever enters IOT&E [initial operational test and evaluation] perfect or ends without identification of anomalies,” the Navy says. “None of the anomalies were showstoppers.”
Prime contractor Boeing acknowledges seeing “software anomalies” during testing. Company spokesman Philip Carder says “the majority of those anomalies were resolved through a previously planned system software update.”
DOT&E agreed the Navy has been making improvements. “The VCD test results provide strong evidence that aircraft software stability is improving,” DOT&E says. “But additional development and flight testing is required to confirm the problems have been resolved.”
The scheduled testing for the first quarter of this year should provide the Navy an opportunity to “assess efforts to fix these suitability issues, particularly with the latest software load that indicated significant progress with fixing maintainability problems,” DOT&E says.
Navy, News EA-18G, EA-18G Growler, EA-6B Prowler, Peter Fey, Prowler
Two airborne electronic attack aircraft, EA-18G “Growler,” recently began validation with Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center’s newest training department, the Airborne Electronic Attack Weapons School (AEAWS) .
NSAWC’s AEAWS department will provide training to the fleets electronic attack squadrons with the techniques, tactics and procedures to ensure aviation superiority in the electronic attack and air-to-air arena.
“NSAWC has been working closely with Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Wash., and Commander Electronic Attack Wing Pacific (COMVAQWINGPAC) toward the goal of establishing a training center here in Fallon since 2006,” said Cmdr. Peter Fey. “Commander Chris Bieber spearheaded most of this, but it’s really come to fruition in the past year,” said Fey.
Since October 2009, we’ve had the instructors show up to start working issues. Now we’ve got the airplanes to validate all the work they’ve done including building scenarios, flights, simulations and lectures.”
Growler training at NSAWC will be similar to the older EA-6B “Prowler” training program, with emphasis on electronic attack protection and the inclusion of Top Gun lectures covering the air–to-air arena. Because it is now at NSAWC, vice Whidbey, the style of training will be run similar to the Top Gun program.
The Growler is the Navy’s replacement aircraft for the Prowler as it is enters its fourth decade of service. Its many capabilities include achieving optimum flight speed of Mach 1.8, offensive electronic jamming, electronic emission detection, monitoring, classification and electronic suppression of enemy air defenses.
“The Growler is basically an ICAP III Prowler stuffed inside an FA-18F,” said Fey. “Boeing and Northrop Grumman essentially combined the two proven systems to make this airplane. It has the same functionality of the latest and greatest Prowler, coupled with the great airframe provided by the FA-18.”
Along with its state-of the-art weapons systems, it is highly economical by retaining 90 percent common parts with the F/A-18/F Super Hornets and reducing the operating crew size by 50 percent.
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Blog Articles, Marine Corps, News F-35B JSF, F18 Hornet, Harrier Jump Jet, Prowler, V-22 Osprey
If the Marines have their way, all of there three outmoded combat planes ( Hornet strike fighters, Prowler and Harrier jump jets ) will soon be swept aside in favor of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter . According to briefing materials., the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter is “the future of Marine Corps aviation”.
The F-35B is a supersonic, stealth fighter jet that can take off on short runways and land vertically, like the newly fielded V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor. The jet is true to the Marines’ expeditionary nature, with its ability to operate from short-decked amphibious ships and austere airfields. It also can carry more ordnance than the Hornet and features advanced electronic technology to spot the enemy far afield, the Marine Corps said.
The short takeoff and vertical landing capability is extremely important to the Corps.
“Short takeoff and vertical landing allow us to operate out of five times more airfields than any aircraft out there,” said Capt. Craig Thomas, a Pentagon-based spokesman for the Marine Corps.
The Marines plan to introduce their first operational squadron by December 2012; they have begun flying the first four test planes at the naval air station in Patuxent River, Md.
But the future of the program remains uncertain.
But the F-35B has a “serious problem” with affordability, he added.
The F-35B is an underperforming “dog,” and the program should have been canceled long ago, says Winslow Wheeler, an analyst with the Center for Defense Information in Washington and a former director at the Government Accountability Office. “It is an aerodynamic step backward,” he said, and the Marine version is “the worst performer of all: shortest range, worst payload, least maneuverable of all three versions. And most expensive and difficult to maintain.”
The economic impact would be positive in the short run, adding more than 1,500 jobs and $100 million in labor costs, the Marine Corps estimates. However, the reduction of about 26 percent of personnel would have a negative economic effect in the long term.
Estimates of the per-unit cost have soared from $69 million in 2001 to $155 million now. The Marine Corps and manufacturer Lockheed Martin must battle Pentagon cost-cutters as they defend the over-budget-and-behind-schedule Joint Strike Fighter.
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