GUY NORRIS / LOS ANGELES
Northrop Grumman has reopened an outer wing-panel production line for the EA-6B Prowler, 18 years after it closed its original production line in Bethpage, New York. The new panels are part of a wider effort to combat severe airframe ageing issues encountered on the EA-6B, as a result of its heavy use as the US military's only electronic attack aircraft.
Built at the relocated line site in St Augustine, Florida, the new wing panels will be used to restore the Prowler fleet to full operational readiness. The first of 54 shipsets will be delivered in July 2005, with almost half of the fleet of 95 aircraft likely to be grounded for repairs.
The St Augustine production line also delivered its 64th replacement centre wing section for the EA-6B last month, and has increased production to two centre sections a month.
In November, Northrop Grumman won a contract worth a potential $32 million from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to demon- strate a system capable of detecting fatigue and corrosion damage to the EA-6B, and of predicting structural capability in real time or near real time.
Source: Flight International