First RAAF Growler rolls out

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The first EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft for the RAAF has been rolled out in a ceremony at Boeing’s St Louis facility on Wednesday.

The aircraft, A46-301, had already made its first flight on July 13, but was formally presented in front of RAAF and US Navy representatives, Boeing employees and the Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon.

“It will be a magnificent addition to the Australia Defence Force’s joint operations, and I predict it will have one of the biggest strategic effects for the ADF since the introduction of the F-111 in the 1970s,” newly-retired Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown, representing current CAF Air Marshal Leo Davies, told the ceremony.

“Occasions such as today,” Brown said, “provide powerful and tangible evidence of the commitment of our government and our people to the maintenance of sophisticated Australian airpower.”

The second RAAF Growler has also made its first flight, while the following 10 aircraft are all currently in various stages of assembly at Boeing’s St Louis plant. All 12 are due to be ferried to Australia during 2017.

In between times the first two RAAF Growlers will fly to China Lake in August to undergo testing with the US Navy to clear the aircraft to carry the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and ATFLIR targeting pod – currently unique Australian requirements – while the other aircraft will initially go into storage with Boeing in St Louis. Aircraft will then either be delivered to Whidbey Island, where RAAF aircrews are currently training on the jet with the US Navy, or delivered direct to Australia.

Air Marshal Brown explained the Australian requirement to fit the AIM-9X and ATFLIR came out of US Navy experience operating the Growler in operations over Libya.

“One of the things you see on our aeroplane is an ATFLIR and an AIM-9X. That was one of the lessons that the Navy learnt [from Libya],” Brown told journalists after the ceremony. “We’re the only ones that have got that capability and I suspect the US Navy will follow very quickly.”

Modifying the Growler to carry the ATFLIR and AIM-9X requires a relatively minor change to the aircraft’s software, as the Super Hornet, upon which the Growler is based, is already cleared to carry both the missile and the pod.

“One of the big lessons out of Libya was to actually have an electro-optical pod on the Growler,” Brown said. “You can get the electronic emissions, see where something is and get eyes on with a pod.”

Brown also flagged that Australia would eventually equip its Growlers with the forthcoming Next Generation Jammer.

“As the US Navy upgrades this aeroplane, we’ll stay in lock-step.”

Apart from being the first Australian Growler, A46-301 also represents another milestone as it is the 100th Hornet airframe built for the RAAF, which has taken delivery of 75 F/A-18A/B classic Hornets and 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets.

The first Australian Growler is the 116th EA-18G to be built, while total Super Hornet and Growler production will reach 700 units later in 2015.

Boeing currently has orders to keep the Super Hornet/Growler production line running through until late 2017, but is hopeful a US Navy requirement for 12 further Super Hornets and orders for 24 to 36 Super Hornets from a new Middle Eastern customer, reported to be Kuwait, will be confirmed, which would see production continue through to late 2019.

The RAAF's first Growler first flew on July 13. (Boeing)
The RAAF’s first Growler first flew on July 13. (Boeing)
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A46-301 was on show at the rollout ceremony fitted with an ATFLIR targeting pod, the ALQ-99 jamming pods and the AIM-9X Sidewinder.

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Comments

  1. Chris Grealy says

    I’m sure that will be very useful when we are bombing unarmed wedding parties on the other side of the world.

  2. Stuart says

    How come no one noticed that the boomarang on the tails was painted on bvackwards, before it was displayed?

  3. Randal McFarlane says

    yes Chris it will be handy as it can shutdown Comms etc with the improvised bomb makers who blow up markets and other communities…,

  4. Jason says

    Chris – Really???

    Stuart – no it’s not, the 6SQN boomerang points from left to right, regardless of what side of the tail it’s painted on.

  5. Dan says

    Boomerang is on in the Heraldically correct direction – the way you throw it, towards the enemy. Our Supers have been getting their Boomerangs changed too.

    When did Australia bomb an unarmed wedding party? You’ve been listening to too much Da’esh or Taliban propraganda…

    D

  6. Dan says

    The Boomerang should be pointing ‘forward’ on both sides, meaning:

    On the LHS of the jet : >
    On the RHS of the jet : <

    D

  7. TimC69 says

    Is it just me or are the markings a “lighter” shade than the standard Super Hornets currently in service? and if so can we get a uniform shade for all fast jets and the tankers?

  8. Raymond says

    I wonder how much the RAT (Ram Air Turbine – the ‘propeller’ at the front of the ALQ-99 jamming pod) contributes to radar signature?

  9. Raymond says

    Dane – read the article. I could copy and paste but I can’t be bothered as you obviously haven’t bothered.

  10. X-Man says

    What an outdated piece of junk…a total waste of money.

    Ahhh, hello 1970’s, you can have your plane back.

  11. John N says

    Dane,

    The answer to your question is yes we will end up with the Next Gen Jammer (have a re read of the article, it was also mentioned) when the USN eventually upgrades to it. It’s been pretty clear since the time of the Super Hornet purchase that the RAAF is not going to ‘go it alone’ when it comes to future or separate upgrade paths, whatever the USN does with upgrading the Super Hornets and Growlers, we will no doubt follow, makes a lot of sense for supportability of the fleet over the years ahead.

    The eventual introduction of the Next Gen Jammer does bring up an interesting question, I can imagine that some time into the 2030’s (and after the Super Hornets have retired), and the F-35A is reportedly going to be capable of carrying and operating the NGJ, will that eventually lead to the retirement of the Growlers without a replacement as such?

    As I understand it, the USAF is not intending to follow the USN and have a ‘specialised/modified’ airframe for airborne electronic attack, but is instead intending to use both the F-35A and the LRS-B perform those roles apart from the main roles, just bolt on the pod and away you go!

    Anyway, that is for a few decades into the future to know the answer to, but it will be interesting to see which path the RAAF follows, the USN’s or the USAF’s?

    In the mean time, I’m sure the Growlers will give great service and add another significant level of capability to the RAAF in the years to come!

    Cheers,

    John N

  12. TomcatTerry says

    @xman
    Not even worth an effort to respond to that comment. So I feel guilty I have ….

  13. Gary says

    X-Man, seeing as you are in the know, stating that the EA-18G is outdated, can you please inform everyone what platform has replaced the Growler in the Airborne Electronic Attack role?

    Thanks so much.

  14. Gary says

    X-Man, still waiting for your answer ……………….. tick, tock, tick, tock. What! You don’t know. Thought so.

  15. Chris GG says

    To prevent confusion i have added another of my initials because only AA and Chris Grealy know i have different views.

    I hope the DWP and DCP specify another 12 ATFLIR or SHARP for the SHornet Growler fleet. Conformal Fuel Tanks would also be handy in our AO from land bases. Another 1.6mtonnes would reduce diversion planning washouts if gravy strokes fail during AAR from the KC30s. Or greater radius missions or longer persistence on station without AAR.

  16. Mike says

    X-Man, I feel your highly informed comment is more worthy of news.com.au or the Daily Mail.

  17. MikeofPerth says

    John N great comments. There is also the USMC model that the RAAF or ADF as a whole could follow.

    The USMC are retiring their EA-6B Prowlers in 2019 without replacing it with a dedicated EW aircraft. They are planning to spread the EW mission over multiple platforms on both air and land.

    They have already started this with the Intrepid Tiger 2 pod that they have flying around on Harriers and Hornets (maybe even Choppers and UAVs in future). This pod uses a modular open systems architecture and was cheap to develop and procure. Land vehicles can also carry EW equipment to jam things like comms that are used for IEDs.

    You don’t need an expensive and complex EW aircraft to accomplish every EW mission. Remember EW is a mission and not a platform.

    There is also the native EW capabilities on the F-35B that the USMC will make use of and the procurement of the NGJ to fit onto the F-35 further down the track.

    I think the RAAF and ADF as a whole have their options open in future on how to fulfil the EW mission based on what the needs are at the time. The RAAF is the only service outside of the US Navy so far to acquire the world’s most sophisticated EW/SEAD platform in the Growler (that can be made even more potent with the NGJ and Advanced Super Hornet upgrades), 12 Super Hornets that are pre-wired to be turned into Growlers if required in future, pending intro of the F-35, NGJ not too far away and potential access to things like the Intrepid Tiger 2 Pod and other cutting edge EW kit for air, land and sea platforms thanks to our close relationship with the US.

  18. glenn says

    Its good to see RAAF are getting updated Ive seen the super hornet going through its paces and looks spectacular I would expect the Growler to be the same but more tricky bits under the bonnet.

  19. Crowbar says

    It’s easy isn’t it to be critical of aircraft designs and executive decisions by the ADF.
    I suggest that the knockers get their pens out and come up with an alternative.
    Yeah Right!

  20. Allan says

    Obviously X-man has no idea of the role or impact of EW platforms. As for the 70`s having their plane back, The Hornets of today are far removed from the models that appeared in the late 70`s, With far more advanced radars and systems. Let`s just hope that they don`t have to come to his aid.

  21. Andrew Taylor says

    Brendan Cowan, the Bureau Number for the new RAAF EA-18G Growler rolled out this week is confirmed as 169148. It’s MSN (Manufacturing serial number) is G-116 and it’s RAAF serial number is A46-301.

  22. Craigy says

    @x-man. So the growlers are 1970s junk. In that case we should get rid of the 1950s electras at 10 and 11 sqns, the 1960s hercs at 37 squadron, the 1970s airbuses from 33 sqn, the 1960s B737s from 34 Sqn and 2 Sqn, the 1960s King Airs from 32 Sqn and 35 sqn, the 1960s chinooks from 5 AAVN, 1970s Seahawks, 1970s Hawks and the 1970s Hornets. Gee x-man that doesn’t leave much in the inventory.

    The truth is airframes are one thing but it is what you put in them that counts. For example, the B53H still going with system updates so it is a key strategic instrument, like wise the updates to the P3s making them formidable in todays environment. While you can update the technology, it is the sustainability of the airframe that is the biggest issue.

  23. Wazza says

    The boomerang is correct. It is to appear as if you are about to throw one. The aircraft nose travelling in the direction of the throw. So no it is not backwards. But , the supers were delivered with the boomerang going the wrong way.

  24. Corey says

    It’s an awesome step towards making Australia even safer and an awesome capability; but…. it would be nice for the RAAF to buy an additional 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets along with 36 F/A-18E Super Hornets in the Advanced model and converting the 12 original F/A-18 Super Hornets into EA-18G Gorwlers Advanced and then upgrade teh current 12 new EA-18G Growlers into the Advanced models with improved engines, conformal fuel tanks, enclosed weapons pod etc. It would provide Australia with additional capability along with allowing 3-4 classic hornet squadrons to be retired (meaning the airframes). The RAAF should also look at upgrading the F-35 engine to the GE Advent allow for greatly improved fuel consumption and power resulting in greater range and speed 1.1-1 to 1.5-1 thrust ratio along with upgrading the avionics, sensors along with removing the refuelling boom receiver and installing the probe refuelling receiver oh yeah and a hell of a lot more KC-30As some where between 12 and 36 but realistic we could only end up with 12 as it’s hard to find low hrs and cycle 2007 vintage A330-200s.

  25. Raymond says

    Corey… I like your passion for the Australian military… but PLEASE read and take some notice of the replies to your comments on other AA articles, PLEASE stop copying and pasting the same thing, and PLEASE stop drinking so much Red Bull and red cordial!!

    It’s been made very clear by RAAF chiefs that upgrades to our Super Hornets will be in conjunction with whatever the program is for USN Super Hornets.

  26. Trevor says

    What a brilliant purchase by the RAAF. A platform the same as the USN except for ATFLIR and the AIM-9X. Hopefully the USN will adopt that as well. We are not big enough to be running variances in equipment, Army and Navy have prooved that.

    Now why the heck don’t we just replace the Hornets with brand new supers. I could imagine we could run a fleet of 100 or more for the price of the F35 program. I’m not convinced the F35 is the correct platform for Australia.
    Imagine this fleet

    100 Super Hornets
    12 Growlers
    8 P8a
    5 KC – 30
    6 Wedgetails.

  27. Raymond says

    Trevor,

    Simply because the F-35 is much, much better. We’re talking 5th generation vs. 4th (or 4.5 / 4+) generation Super Hornets. A minimum of 72 F-35’s are on order. They’re being delivered. They’re happening. Get with it!

    Rather, imagine *this* fleet:

    72 F-35A (up to 100)
    24 F/A-18F
    12 EA-18G
    12 (likely) P-8A
    6 (likely) MQ-4C
    7 KC-30A (extra two on order)
    6 E-7A

    Together with other aircraft such as 8 C-17A’s and 10 C-27J’s… far better.

  28. Craig says

    Good comment Raymond but I think we need at least 12 Poseidons preferrably 24.

    But, wouldn’t the Super Atlantiques of been more cost effective? We could of got 30- 36 so two squadrons of 12 with 6 to 12 used for training. I can’t help but think the Poseidon is a gold plated option. Only query is is the Super Ankantique available?