The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will convert half its fleet of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets to EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. Australia’s Department of Defense will acquire Growler modification kits from the U.S. through a foreign military sale (FMS) for $1.5 billion, the department said on August 23.
The Australian government announced plans to acquire 24 two-seat F/A-18Fs in March 2007 to serve as gap fillers until the arrival of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. The Block II Super Hornets were delivered to RAAF Base Amberley, near Brisbane, from March 2010 to October 2011. In early May this year, Stephen Smith, Australia’s defense minister, announced that his country’s planned acquisition of 12 F-35As would be deferred by two years, to 2019, saving the government $1.6 billion. Australia is under contract for two F-35s that will be delivered in the U.S. in 2014 to 2015 for testing and training.
On May 22 the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the proposed FMS to Australia of modification kits to convert 12 Super Hornets to the EA-18G configuration with associated parts, equipment training and logistical support. Boeing is the prime contractor. The package includes 34 AN/ALQ-99F(V) tactical jamming system pods, upgraded AGM-88E advanced anti- radiation guided missiles, 22 CN-1717/A interference cancellation systems, 22 R-2674(C)/A joint tactical terminal receiver systems and 30 LAU-118 reusable guided missile launchers.
Australia currently operates 71 older F/A-18A/B Hornets and is the first export customer for the Super Hornet Block II. The RAAF will be the only service besides the U.S. Navy to fly the Growler, which will be available for operations in 2018, according to the Australian defense department. The EA-18G “will provide options for the Air Force to undertake electronic threat suppression operations in support of Australian Defense Force operations, including land and sea forces,” the department said. “The Growler capability can also undertake intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and will be able to support the full range of defense tasks from evacuations to major conflicts.”
At the Farnborough Airshow in July, U.S. Navy Capt. Frank Morley, F/A-18 and EA-18G program manager, said his service had received half of the 114 Growlers planned under the EA-18G program of record. It was operating five Growler electronic attack squadrons.