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The first Growler for fleet use was officially accepted by VAQ-129 “Vikings” at NAS Whidbey Island, on 3 June 2008. The Navy planned to buy approximately 85 aircraft to equip 11 squadrons as of 2008. The EA-18G completed operational evaluation in late July 2009.
The Growler was rated operationally effective and suitable for operational use. On 5 August 2009, EA-18G Growlers from Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) and Electronic Attack Squadron 132 (VAQ-132) completed their first at-sea carrier-arrested landing aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).
The first deployable EA-18G squadron was VAQ-132 “Scorpions”, which reached operational status in October 2009. The first Growler operational deployment was announced on 17 February 2011. In service, the EA-18’s radio name during flight operations will be “Grizzly”. The “Growler” nickname sounded too much like the EA-6B’s “Prowler” name, so “Grizzly” will be used to avoid confusion. By May 2011, 48 Growlers had been delivered to the U.S. Navy.
With the termination of the EB-52H standoff jammer, the Growler became the sole remaining manned tactical jammer. Air Staff requirements director Maj. Gen. David Scott has indicated that the USAF will seek to provide electronic warfare officers to fly on U.S. Navy Growlers, without providing funding to purchase additional aircraft. U.S. Air Force personnel of 390th Electronic Combat Squadron stationed at NAS Whidbey Island have been supporting and flying the Growler.
The EA-18G was first used in combat during Operation Odyssey Dawn, enforcing the UN no-fly zone over Libya in 2011. Five EA-18Gs were redeployed from Iraq to support operations in Libya in 2011.