The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircrew personnel have completed basic training in the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare (EW) aircraft at the US Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Washington, US.
The five graduates would now be assigned to US Navy expeditionary units, to deploy and operate the aircraft under the personnel exchange programme over the next two years.
One of the graduates has already been deployed and is operating in the US Pacific Fleet area of responsibility.
Australia is acquiring 12 Growler aircraft under the US Government’s foreign military sales programme at a cost of around $1.5bn, with deliveries expected to start in 2017.
EA-18G Growler Transition acting director RAAF wing commander Paul Jarvis said: "Training with CVWP (Electronic Attack Wing, US Pacific Fleet) is essential to our ability to establish a credible airborne electronic attack (AEA) capability.
"We’ve started early as there is an awful lot to learn between now and when we begin flying our own EA-18Gs in 2017."
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RAAF general capability planning director air commodore Mike Kitcher said: "Growler is a game changer for the Royal Australian Air Force and the whole Australian Defence Force, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the reception and support of the entire Whidbey Island and the broader US Navy team."
US Pacific fleet electronic attack wing commander captain Darryl Walker said: "The RAAF personnel addition to our expeditionary force is a win-win for both countries."
The EA-18G Growler is built by Boeing. It is a derivative of the combat-proven F/A-18 Hornet fighter, and is designed for electronic attack missions, and suppression of enemy air defences using both reactive and pre-emptive jamming techniques.
The Growlers are based at RAAF Base Amberley. They are expected to support the full spectrum of Australian Defence Force tasks, from peacetime evacuations to major conflicts.
Image: A US Navy VAQ 129’s EA-18G Growler lands on NAS Whidbey Island’s Ault Field in Washington, US. Photo: courtesy of US Navy, photo by mass communication specialist 2nd class John Hetherington / Released.