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Boeings EA-18G Electronic Warfare Aircraft To Enter Full Rate Production

In a boon to Boeing (BA) the Defense Department conducted a Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) and approved the EA-18G Electronic Warfare (EW) aircraft for full rate production. This aircraft will replace the Navy and Marine Corps' EA-6 and the Air Force's EF-111 as the primary EW asset for tactical air operations.

The DAB was conducted just before Thanksgiving and means that the aircraft and system have completed all of its goals to move from Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) into Full Rate. Yesterday the Government went ahead and awarded a contract worth almost $400 million for forty-four sets of the actual EW equipment and the engineering work to support installation on the aircraft.

Boeing has been hit hard recently with the end of the F-22 program and proposed completion of C-17 transport production. The F-18G fighter and attack aircraft which is currently being built for the U.S. Navy and Marines will also soon complete its production run as those services begin the transition to the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The EA-18 program will keep Boeing busy with some aviation work as it moves to either win contracts overseas or start a new program with the U.S. Navy.

The C-17 has received extra aircraft in the last supplemental as well as in the 2010 budget despite a request for no more by the Obama Administration. The C-17 is popular as it certainly is useful in current operations and it supports a large workforce in California and across the United States. Boeing is on record as stating that it will close the McDonnel Douglas plant in Long Beach, CA as soon as the last C-17 rolls off the production line meaning there is even more pressure on Congress to keep production running.

The EA-18G represents a new level of performance and technology over the two older aircraft. The EA-6 was made out of a subsonic strike aircraft that saw a great deal of usage in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Bosnia. The F-111 was a swing wing, supersonic bomber that was retired in the Nineties. It made sense for the Air Force to modify this platform as the EF-111 would need to be able to escort strike packages of F-111 aircraft on deep penetration missions of Soviet air space. This is a mission that sort of went by the wayside with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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