The Navy continues to evaluate whether it will need more EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft on the deck of a carrier even though service officials chose to include no new Growlers in its 2016 defense budget request.
The current configuration for an aircraft carrier’s air wing includes five Growler aircraft per squadron; however, an ongoing evaluation of the jamming aircraft is leading the service to consider increasing this number to seven or eight per squadron.
The Navy’s 2016 budget request adds no new Growler aircraft to the current acquisition plan, which specifies that the service is funded to procure 153 Growlers — with final delivery taking place in 2017. As of Feb. 1, 114 Growlers have been delivered, said Navy Lt. Robert Myers, a service spokesman.
The decision isn’t just a straight up question of the numbers of Growlers the Navy would like. First, every pilot or NFO slot in the Growler community is in competition with the rest of Naval aviation, not to mention the legally imposed caps on total numbers of officers in the service.
Plus, of course, money to buy and fly additional aircraft is money the Navy can’t use elsewhere.
On a rather less well known front, there’s a very small, but quite vocal protest group near NAS Whidbey that is determined to shut down the airfield. They have managed to force the Navy to conduct another environmental impact assessment on the consequences of adding additional aircraft to the air station.
Personally, I’d like to see Option Four, with 7 jets per squadron, and an additional two expeditionary squadrons constituted.