The US Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Three One, known as VX-31, on December 14 received an EA-18G Growler aircraft from the Defense Contract Management Agency Boeing St. Louis, the agency’s EA-18G to be delivered.
The event signified an important milestone in the Growler program. After more than 10 years of production, the agency’s current contract ends late next year with the final planned delivery of the 160th aircraft.
“This delivery marks a monumental achievement for the DCMA and Boeing team supporting the warfighter,” said Navy Capt. Paul Filardi, DCMA Boeing St. Louis commander, as he climbed into the aircraft for its delivery flight.
For the EA-18G, the agency’s program support began more than 10 years ago.
“After 45 years of service, the Navy retired the EA-6B Prowler in 2015,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Bellinghausen, DCMA Boeing St. Louis alternate government flight representative. “With the introduction of the EA-18G in 2007, the Navy has moved on to provide the fleet with a more capable and lethal electronic warfare aircraft.”
The Naval Air Systems Command describes the Growler as “a variant of the combat-proven F/A-18F Super Hornet Block II and will fly the airborne electronic attack mission. The EA-18G combines the capability of the combat-proven Super Hornet with the latest (airborne electronic attack) avionics suite evolved from the Improved Capability III system. The EA-18G’s vast array of sensors and weapons provides the warfighter with a lethal and survivable weapon system to counter current and emerging threats.”
With production name “G-150,” the newly delivered aircraft will enter service with VX-31 as “Dust Devil 507” furthering platform testing and tactical development for the fleet.
According to the unit’s website, VX-31provides aircraft, test pilots, project officers and flight test planning oversight for research, development, test and evaluation of current and future manned aircraft, weapons and weapons systems. The squadron earns its skyward nickname — Dust Devils — annually flying approximately 4,000 flight hours while employing unique test assets. VX-31 actively supports daily flight tests, ground tests and other data gathering activities.
The Dust Devils, who are commanded by Navy Cmdr. Elizabeth Somerville, plan, execute, analyze, evaluate and report full spectrum developmental and integrated test of aircraft and weapon systems. It is an important mission that involves multiple aircraft including the Growler and Super Hornet.
“The Navy’s fighter and electronic attack fleet is currently composed entirely of F/A-18 and EA-18 aircraft, cementing this production line as the backbone of much of the Navy’s fixed wing fleet,” said Bellinghausen.