| LONDON, July 18
LONDON, July 18 The U.S. Navy said it was
pleased with the results of a test that put three extra Boeing
Co EA-18G electronic attack jets on the deck of an
aircraft carrier in late May and early June, an exercise that
could underpin future orders of the jets.
"The exercise went very well. We gained a deeper
understanding of the incredible value of the EA-18G Growler and
how to best employ its capability, and increased capacity, from
the flight deck of our aircraft carrier," said Commander Jeannie
Groeneveld, spokeswoman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet's naval air
Groeneveld said the Navy was still reviewing lessons learned
from the exercise, which took place aboard the USS Carl Vinson
off the coast of southern California. The test came at a time
when Boeing is lobbying U.S. lawmakers to add orders for the
planes and keep its St. Louis production line open past 2016.
The exercise could help Navy officials make the case for
adding EA-18G Growlers to the five planes now slated to go on
each of the Navy's 11 aircraft carriers in coming years.
Congress is likely to approve funding for 12 more of the
fast electronic attack jets beyond those ordered in fiscal 2015,
and Boeing is already pressing for added jets in 2016.
The Navy did not include money in its fiscal 2015 budget
request for more Boeing EA-18G Growlers, but later added 22 of
the jets to its "unfunded priorities list" for about $2.2
billion. Now several key committees have approved funding for 12
jets. That is enough to stretch production through half of 2017,
but Boeing is in talks with the Navy about slowing the delivery
of jets already on order to keep the line going for a full year.
"Initial indicators suggest that the addition of EA-18G
Growler capacity to our ... carrier air wings greatly enhances
the Navy's ability to support both the Joint Force commander and
the Maritime Component commander," she said.
She said the exercise was aimed at measuring the operational
benefit of having added electronic attack support capacity
available on the carrier for use in a variety of mission areas,
including by destroyers that accompany the carrier.
Captain Frank Morley, who runs the F/A-18 and EA-18G
programs for the Navy, said he had heard "generally positive
feedback" on the test, but had no further details.
Morley told Reuters this week that the Navy was open to
slowing production, but not if it added to costs. A subcommittee
of the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a measure on
Thursday that would add $100 million to help fund the
contracting change and keep the line open through the end of
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal. Editing by Andre Grenon)