25 years, he added, the Navy envisions a faster and more precise electronic warfare jet, and an advanced Growler package will supply gradual upgrades. The world climate will demand it, too. “We think there’s a compelling need for more airplanes and we’re working with the Navy for that need,” Gillian said. “With the (electronic threat) environment, especially in 2020 and 2030, the Growler is a game changer for U.S. forces in how effective they can be.” In an article about the Growler last year in the industry publication Aviation Week, a Growler pilot on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan said Growler flight crews are only now starting to tap into the incredible capabilities offered by the aircraft. “I don’t think we’ve even cracked the nut yet on how much Growler can do,” this veteran Navy pilot was quoted as saying. “In a classified discussion, it’s eye-watering. The bumper sticker here is that the Navy does evolutionary stuff very well—and the Growler is evolutionary.” To operate this marvel of technology, a Navy pilot typically receives basic flight training in Pensacola, Fla., advanced training in Meridian, Miss., or Kingsville, Texas, and 42 weeks of Growler training at the Whidbey Island base. The Growler and its bank of systems, according to the Whidbey pilots, require someone with an analytical mindset who is capable of multitasking and problem-solving. Most important, an aviator must be open to 30 Boeing Frontiers learning new things to be proficient. “You don’t have to be macho to fly this airplane; you have to be a nerd,” said Lt. Paul L., a naval electronic warfare officer who grew up attending air shows in Wisconsin. “We deal with electromagnetic spectrum at length. We’re a bunch of nerds.” At the same time, the Growler comes fully equipped to engage in battle and will defend itself if necessary. Among its weaponry is the HARM, or high-speed, anti-radiation missile, which weighs 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) and doesn’t go unnoticed. “When ordnance comes off the aircraft it’s pretty spectacular,” Lt. Cmdr. Marcus K. said. “I’ve done air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles shoots and the HARM itself is like a telephone pole coming off your jet. It sounds like a banshee coming off.” Well after delivery, Boeing still has a hand in keeping the Growler airborne and operating efficiently. A five-person team of field service representatives is assigned to the Whidbey base. They’re former military personnel who, with more than five decades of combined avionics experience, make daily house Photos: (Above) Growlers have folding wings, which enable them to park in tight spaces when deployed on aircraft carriers. (Right) A Navy maintenance employee, who can’t be identified for security reasons, performs cockpit checks before the Growler leaves on a training flight.
Frontiers June 2015 Issue
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