Friday, February 4, 2011

U.S. Navy, Pentagon Debate EA-18G Growler

While the U.S. Navy has continued to make improvements to its F/A-18 electronic attack variant — the EA-18G Growler — the service has yet to prove the aircraft is suitable for operations, says a recent report by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).
At the same time, DOT&E notes another Navy electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler, is suitable, despite testing limitations faced by the program.
DOT&E notes “suitability problems” that were identified during Growler testing in 2008. The Navy conducted Verification of Correction of Deficiencies (VCD) testing on the EA-18G from September 2009 to January 2010 to resolve those issues.

“The VCD test results did confirm significant progress on improving suitability, but additional development and testing are needed,” DOT&E notes in its most recent report, released in January. “The EA-18G is operationally effective, but still not operationally suitable.”
In DOT&E’s parlance, “operationally effective” simply means the system can perform its mission. “Operationally suitable” means the system will be practical and supportable in the field.
As far as the Navy is concerned, the Growler’s initial operational test and evaluation proved it is both operationally effective and suitable. “From what we understand, DOT&E included items outside the specific scope of [the] test for the EA-18G program into its findings,” the service says in a statement. “Although these items were outside the scope of the development program, they are items DOT&E felt important enough to address from a Department of Defense perspective.
“No program ever enters IOT&E [initial operational test and evaluation] perfect or ends without identification of anomalies,” the Navy says. “None of the anomalies were showstoppers.”
Prime contractor Boeing acknowledges seeing “software anomalies” during testing. Company spokesman Philip Carder says “the majority of those anomalies were resolved through a previously planned system software update.”
DOT&E agreed the Navy has been making improvements. “The VCD test results provide strong evidence that aircraft software stability is improving,” DOT&E says. “But additional development and flight testing is required to confirm the problems have been resolved.”
The scheduled testing for the first quarter of this year should provide the Navy an opportunity to “assess efforts to fix these suitability issues, particularly with the latest software load that indicated significant progress with fixing maintainability problems,” DOT&E says.
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