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Boeing unveils Growler for Royal Australian Air Force

Look closely and you’ll notice a kangaroo on the side of the sleek gray fighter jet and a boomerang on its tail.

This EA-18G Growler, produced at Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security headquarters in St. Louis, has all the markings to show that it's headed to the Royal Australian Air Force.

It’s the first of 12 Growlers ordered by the Australians, which are all expected to be delivered in 2017. Australia is the first country outside the U.S. to obtain the Growler, and that country's military officials said that with its advanced airborne electronic attack ability, the jet will be a game changer.

"The Growler gives us the ability to jam electronic systems of aircraft, land and sea-based radars, as well as communication systems," said Air Marshal Geoffrey Brown of the RAAF. "The ability to shut down surface-to-air missile systems and any electronic transmissions across battle space really does decrease the risk to all operations."

Yet the unveiling ceremony on Wednesday comes at a time when Boeing’s production line for the Growler and its predecessor, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, is beginning to slow down.

Still, with the Australian acquisition, along with an order by Congress for 15 more Growlers in FY15, the line is safe through the end of 2017. That’s after Boeing chose to slow down production, making two jets per month rather than three.

"We’re in the process of doing that today," said Daniel Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18G programs. "That production of two a month is our forecasted rate going forward, and we see being able to hold that for some time into the future."  

Gillian said with the slowdown, some of the line’s 2,000 employees would likely begin work on other projects, including the 777X program. Yet, Gillian, isn’t preparing to shut down the line altogether.

"We see strong signals domestically and internationally that allow us to move forward building airplanes," he said.

His optimism may not be unfounded. Four Congressional defense committees have signed off on the acquisition of 12 more Super Hornets for the Navy. Additionally, Gillian said, discussions are ongoing with a Middle Eastern country, and Denmark is expected to choose a fighter jet soon.

Governor Jay Nixon was on hand for the ceremony and said he expects more orders to come Boeing’s way.

"This is the best aircraft in the world, otherwise the Australians wouldn’t be getting it," Nixon said. 

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

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