The centre and rear fuselage ‘shipset’ for the RAAF’s first EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft has been completed by Super Hornet program sub-contractor, Northrop Grumman.
The milestone shipset represents the one hundredth Hornet, Super Hornet and Growler shipset Northrop Grumman has manufactured for the RAAF, after the 75 classic Hornets which were built in the 1980s, and the 24 Super Hornets which were delivered from 2010.
The centre and rear fuselage, vertical tails and associated sub-systems are manufactured at Northrop Grumman’s El Segundo facility near Los Angeles Airport, before being shipped to Boeing in St Louis for mating with the aircraft’s wings, forward fuselage and other components during final assembly.
The sub-contractor arrangement is a continuation of the partnership between Northrop and McDonnell Douglas (now owned by Boeing) from the 1970s where the two companies jointly developed and marketed the land-based and naval versions of the original F/A-18.
“We are honoured to celebrate this significant milestone with the U.S. Navy and our industry partners,” the RAAF Director General Capability Planning (DGCP), AIRCDRE Michael Kitcher said in a statement. “I am confident that Growler will provide our air force with the most versatile and effective airborne electronic attack platform in the world.”
Added Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems F/A-18 program manager and director, John Murnane: “Production of the first international Growler shipset marks another important milestone in Northrop Grumman’s storied history as a volume producer of advanced aircraft systems of unmatched quality. Our consistent record of on-time, on-budget performance helps give Australia critical, new offensive and defensive options for its air combat operations.”
The first RAAF Growler is scheduled to commence flight tests in early 2016. RAAF crews are currently embedded within US Navy Growler squadrons to learn the specialist electronic warfare skillset, and these crews will form the first cadre of instructor pilots and electronic warfare officers for the RAAF when the first EA-18Gs are delivered to Amberley in 2017.