St. Louis Boeing Co.'s defense operation in St. Louis unveiled the first EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft Thursday for the U.S. Navy, a next-generation radar-jamming jet that promises more protection for service members.
The $9 billion project for 90 aircraft that can detect enemy radar and jam it replaces its four-seat, 30-year-old predecessor, the EA-6B Prowler.
"This rollout comes none too soon," said Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations. "As we speak the Growler's predecessor, the EA-6B Prowlers, are themselves flying vital missions over Iraq and Afghanistan and they need to be replaced as soon as possible."
Boeing unveiled the aircraft Thursday in St. Louis to a crowd of about 500 aviation industry partners, Naval personnel and elected officials.
The Growler's first flight will take place later this month and it will join the Navy's aircraft fleet in 2009, according to Navy officials.
The new Navy jets will be based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., and begin to phase out Prowler squadrons from 2008 to 2013. The number of new aircraft per squadron has not been decided, Boeing officials said.
The Prowler was becoming incapable of keeping up with more modern attack aircraft and the leaner two-passenger Growler are faster.
The Growler, which is considered a bodyguard or escort in U.S. military air strike operations, will keep 90 percent of the parts that were used on the F/A-18F Super Hornet airframe, according to Military.com.
The new jet has an Airborne Electronic Attack system that can detect a radar's electronic energy and signal strength to shut it off.
U.S. Rep Todd Akin, R-Mo., has said production of Boeing's EA-18G Growler aircraft at its St. Louis Integrated Defense Systems facility means jobs and economic development for the St. Louis area.
It also will make for increased survivability for service members like his sons, he said, one in the U.S. Naval Academy and the other a Marine who has served in the Middle East.