The Defence White Paper, due to be released on Friday, will confirm Australia will acquire 12 new build Boeing EA-18G Growlers but reaffirm the government’s commitment to an ultimate fleet of 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, news wire service Reuters has reported.
According to the report, citing unnamed “defence sources and analysts”, the government’s faith in the F-35 has been re-kindled, and so plans to acquire 12 Growlers and 12 Super Hornets to supplement the 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets currently in service have been scaled back to 12 new build Growler electronic attack jets.
Reports Reuters: “Australia had planned to retrofit a dozen Super Hornets with the electronic attack capabilities, but has now decided to buy new Growlers, said two sources who were not authorised to speak on the record.”
It is expected that acquiring new build Growlers, rather than converting existing F/A-18Fs, will allow the RAAF to better manage the transition better the classic Hornet and F-35 as existing Super Hornets won’t have to be taken offline for an extensive and time consuming modification process.
To date the government has committed to an initial batch of 14 F-35s, two of which have been contracted for and are now under assembly with Lockheed Martin.