Australian minister for Defence Stephen Smith and minister for Defence Material Jason Clare have announced that the Australian Government has decided to acquire the “Growler” electronic warfare system for Royal Australian Air Force Super Hornet fleet of 24 jets.
The Growler system allows the Super Hornet to jam the electronic systems of aircraft and land based radar and communications.
The deal worth some 1.5 billion USD will mark out Australia as the only country outside of the U.S. to operate the EA-18G Growler system.
Of the 24 jets that Australia has procured, 12 are already wired for the Growler system: in May 2009, the Government announced its decision to wire half of its “Rhinos” (actually, this is the Super Hornet nickname within the U.S. Navy fighter pilot community) for potential conversion to the Growler configuration.
The Growlers will be operational from 2018, the purchase of the equipment is being made through the United States Foreign Military Sales process.
Although Lockheed Martin officials have criticized the choice (since the F-35, that Australia is committed to buying in up to 100 examples, will have some advanced electronic warfare capabilities), with a fleet of 12 EA-18Gs the RAAF has opted for a small but extremely effective force capable to perform of Electronic Warfare/Electronic Attack as well as SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) missions, few other non-US nations can rely on.
David Cenciotti has contributed to this post.
Image credit: Russel Hill
I think the Aussies have been very smart with their Super Hornet purchase. First, they modernized their fighter fleet more or less on time even with the F-35 delays using a platform with some commonality to what they already had. Next, by buying the Hornet, they hedged their bets against the F-35 falling though, but didn’t cause a break with the U.S. by buying American and not outright cancelling the F-35 (though I’m sure they thought about that). Third, they still get the F-35 in the long run (but like everyone, not in the initial numbers planned). Finally, as the F-35 comes into service in the near future, it’s still reasonable and justifiable for the RAAF to keep at least the 12 nearly brand-new Growlers in service for that specialized role.