Northrop Grumman has handed over a major subassembly for the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) first EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft to Boeing.
The subassembly consists of the Growler’s centre / aft fuselage section, twin vertical tails and all associated subsystems, and is the first such shipset to be produced for an international customer.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems F/A-18 programme manager and director John Murnane said: "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."
Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18G programmes vice-president Dan Gillian said: "This significant milestone brings us one step closer to Australia becoming the first country as well as the US to receive this unique airborne electronic attack capability."
The shipset was manufactured at the company’s F/A-18 assembly line in El Segundo, California, US, which is also used to produce major centre and aft structures for both F/A-18 and EA-18G aircraft.
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Northrop intends to continue shipsets production on the line at least through August 2017.
As a principal subcontractor to Boeing on the F/A-18 Super Hornet and its Growler derivative, the company has so far delivered shipsets for 100 Australian F/A-18 Hornets, including 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets.
Australia is acquiring 12 Growler aircraft under the US Government’s foreign military sales programme at a cost of around $1.5bn, with deliveries expected to start in 2017.
The EA-18G Growler is a derivative of the F/A-18 Hornet. It is designed for electronic attack missions, and suppression of enemy air defences using both reactive and pre-emptive jamming techniques.
RAAF Capability Planning director general air commodore Michael Kitcher said: "I am confident that Growler will provide our air force with the most versatile and effective airborne electronic attack platform in the world."
Apart from the Growler shipset, Northrop also produces and integrates the jet’s primary electronic warfare subsystems, and provides related software maintenance and support services.
Image: Northrop mechanics perform final quality inspections on the first Australian EA-18G Growler’s centre / aft fuselage shipset. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp.