The Australian Government has decided to convert its 12 F-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft into the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare (EW) system, under a $1.5bn refit programme.
Procured through the US foreign military sales route, the estimated project cost includes the purchase of lead item electronic equipment such as electronic systems, antennas and high frequency modulation receivers, spares and training and initial training systems.
Australia’s Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare said in a joint statement that the acquisition will make Australia only the second country, alongside the US, to operate the Growler aircraft.
The EW system will enable the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Super Hornets to perform electronic threat suppression operations in support of Australian Defence Forces (ADF), while providing the ability to jam aircraft electronics systems and land-based radars and communications systems.
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.
Built by Boeing, EA-18G Growler is capable of countering enemy air defences using both reactive and pre-emptive jamming techniques.
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A derivative of the combat-proven two-seat F/A-18 Hornet, US Navy’s maritime strike aircraft, the EA-18G Growler is an airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft that can operate from either an aircraft carrier or from land-bases.
Additional features include an advanced electronically scanned array radar, digital data links and air-to-air missiles.
The Growler’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 new aircraft will be operational from 2018.
Image: The Growler is a derivative of the combat-proven two-seat F/A-18 Hornet. Photo: courtesy of LACW Kylie Gibson/Commonwealth of Australia.