report by: Danny Bonny
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island [ KNUW ] is a naval air station of the United States Navy located on two pieces of land near Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island, in Island County, Washington.The main portion of the base, Ault Field, is about three miles north of Oak Harbor. The NASWI commanding officer also has command of a lightly used satellite airfield, Naval Outlying Landing Field (NOLF) Coupeville, on central Whidbey Island at 48°11′24″N 122°37′48″W, roughly nine miles south of Ault Field. Primarily used for Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) by carrier-based jets, this field has no permanently assigned personnel.
NASWI supports the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and the EA-18G Growler, P-3C Orion, P-8 Poseidon, EP-3E ARIES II and C-40 Clipper fixed-wing aircraft. In July 2009, VAQ-129 accepted its first Boeing EA-18G Growler aircraft. Based on the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, the Growler has replaced the Navy’s EA-6Bs. In all, there are 17 active duty squadrons and 3 Ready Reserve squadrons based at NAS Whidbey Island. The air station also maintains a Search and Rescue Unit that flies two Sikorsky MH-60S Nighthawks.
Over 50 tenant commands are at NAS Whidbey Island to provide training, and other support services, including a Marine Aviation Training Support Group (MATSG) for Whidbey’s staff and student Marine Corps personnel. The base also continues its longstanding role as a center of activity for Naval Air Reserve operations and training in the region.
The Boeing EA-18G Growler is an American carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, a specialized version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet. The EA-18G replaced the Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers in service with the United States Navy. The Growler’s electronic warfare capability is primarily provided by Northrop Grumman. The EA-18G began production in 2007 and entered operational service with the US Navy in late 2009.
The EP-3E ARIES II aircraft is a four-engine, low-wing, electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft utilizing state-of-the-art electronic surveillance equipment for its primary mission. It is powered by four Allison T56-A-14 turboprop engines, and has a wing span of 99 ft, 8 in., a length of 105 ft, 11 in., and a height of 34 ft, 3 in. There are 24 numbered seating positions, of which 19 are crew stations. The ARIES II is capable of a 12+ hour endurance and a 3000+ nautical mile range.The normal crew complement is 24, 7 officers and 17 enlisted aircrew. The EP-3E typically carries three pilots, one navigator, three tactical evaluators, and one flight engineer. The remainder of the crew is composed of equipment operators, technicians, and mechanics and may include relief crew members as well. Not all members of the crew are intelligence specialists NASWI is hosting the 2 remaining EP-3E squadrons in USN.
In June 2004, the US Navy announced the selection of the Boeing multimission maritime aircraft, 737 MMA, and awarded a contract to Boeing for the system development and demonstration phase of the programme for the US Navy’s next-generation maritime surveillance aircraft. The aircraft was given the P-8A Poseidon. The first production P-8A was handed over to the Navy on 4 March 2012. On 24 June 2013, a P-8 successfully scored a direct hit with a live AGM-84D Block IC Harpoon anti-ship missile during weapons integration testing. All those type of Aircraft were reported during our correspondent stay around NASWI. Many thanks to Danny for this report.