An EA-18G Growler that collided with another aircraft near Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, in 2017, has returned to the fleet five years later following a painstaking and unprecedented restoration process.
Assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 136 at the time, the Growler and its aviators landed safely after striking the other aircraft mid-air during an exercise at Fallon on Sept. 14, 2017, according to the Navy.
Officials did not confirm the other type of aircraft involved in that 2017 collision by Navy Times’ deadline, although it was assigned to Carrier Air Wing 2, but a release states that both planes and their air crews were uninjured.
The stricken Growler remained at Fallon for several years after the harrowing mishap, alone and neglected, subjected to the elements and all but forgotten.
Getting a Growler back into the fight after such a collision had never been attempted before, and no procedures existed for how to get the jet back up, according to a Navy release.
But after a thorough assessment, Big Navy greenlit the resurrection process and fixing the Growler began in early February 2021, when it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and driven up the West Coast to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state.
The Growler’s refurbishment cost the Navy about $500,000, according to officials.
Once ensconced in long-term hangar space at Whidbey, engineers, artisans and maintainers spent more than a year and 2,000 man hours mapping out the repairs, conducting the repairs and thoroughly inspecting the aircraft.
Growler 515 returned to the skies and completed a functional check flight Oct. 17.
The resilient Growler will be transferred to an operational squadron soon and will be prowling the skies for decades to come, according to the Navy.
“It was truly amazing to watch the entire Naval Aviation Enterprise team come together to get this much-needed asset back up to flight status,” Capt. David Harris, commodore for Electronic Attack Wing Pacific, said in a statement. “From the engineers who developed the needed repair designs, to the artisans who accomplished the complex repairs, to the (Electronic Attack Squadron 129) Sailors who ultimately rebuilt the aircraft to a flight status, it was a true team effort.”
Correction: an earlier version of this story misstated the location of Naval Air Station Fallon. The base is located in Nevada.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.