The Australian Government is planning to convert the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) six new Boeing-built Super Hornet fighter aircraft to the EA-18G model, dubbed Growlers, under a yet to be announced refit programme valued in excess of $200m.
Australia's Defence Minister Stephen Smith is likely to reveal the fighter aircraft upgrade decision in March 2012, aimed to fill RAAF's emerging air combat capability gap by 2012, according to Adelaidenow News.
Smith added that the current 2012-13 Budget process will also examine whether Defence is able to make a further contribution to the Government's Budget bottom line.
The RAAF received 24 Super Hornet fighters from Boeing as a part of a $6bn deal with the US, aimed to bridge the capability gap between the aging F-111 fighter bomber and the arrival of Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
During the production process, around 12 Super Hornet fighters were purchased at a cost of $35m for the Growler upgrade, and retrofitting is expected to cost between $200m and $300m.
The Boeing-built EA-18G Growler is capable of countering enemy air defences using both reactive and pre-emptive jamming techniques.
The EA-18G Growler is an airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft which operates from either an aircraft carrier or from land-bases and is a derivative of the combat-proven two-seat F/A-18 Hornet, the US Navy's maritime strike aircraft.
Additional features include an Advanced Electronically Scanned Array radar, digital data links and air-to-air missiles.
The aircraft's missions are mainly electronic attack (EA) and suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD), particularly at the start and on-going early stages of hostilities.
The first aircraft is likely to be converted at the Boeing factory in St Louis and the remaining jets at Amberley RAAF base near Brisbane.
Image: Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) new Boeing-built Super Hornet fighter (JSF) aircraft to be converted to EA-18G model. Photo: Peter Bailey.