House appropriators have added more than $1 billion to the defense budget for fiscal 2015 that would allow the Navy to purchase a dozen of Boeing’s [BA] EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, just more than half of the number identified by the service as an unfunded priority.

While the full bill must still be approved by the House of Representatives, the number of Growlers is far more than what had been called for by the armed services committees in the House and Senate. Because of fiscal constraints, the Navy sought no funding for Growlers in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal, but replied to a congressional request to identify unfunded priorities by saying it would like 22 Growlers.

An E/A-18 Growler in the foreground shadowed by a F/A-18 Super Hornet. Photo by Boeing.
An E/A-18 Growler in the foreground shadowed by a F/A-18 Super Hornet. Photo by Boeing.

The Senate Armed Services Committee suggested funding for about two while instructing the Navy to keep options open for buying more, while the House Armed Services Committee, in an authorization bill already passed by the entire lower chamber, called for five of the radar jamming jets. Senate appropriators have yet to decide on the Growlers.

The Navy’s current plans would create a fleet of 212 EA-18Gs with final orders this year, but with no more additional purchases, Boeing would be forced to close the line when production for those orders ends in 2016.

The Navy is the only service that performs airborne electronic attack and top Navy officials have said the need to conduct the mission will likely grow in a future warfare environment.

The Growlers detect enemy radar and surface-to-air threats and employ sophisticated jamming capabilities to neutralize them, allowing other aircraft to more safely enter contested airspace to carry out strike missions.

“We’re it right now,” the chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, recently said of the Navy being sole provider of airborne electronic attack. Greenert has said that the current number of planned Growlers only meets the minimum future requirement yet he expects the need to increase.

In an effort to avoid closing the Growler line, Boeing has been aggressively pushing to win support on Capitol Hill and through a public campaign, such as an online petition, to keep the program going.