US approves Growler electronic warfare range systems deal

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Australia is acquiring 12 EA-18G Growlers. (Defence)

The US Department of State has approved the possible sale to Australia of EA-18G Growler electronic warfare range systems for an estimated US$115 million including support, equipment and training.

The prime contractors for this potential purchase under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program are Leidos for hardware and General Dynamics Mission Systems for software.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Australian government requested two range systems with which to conduct electronic warfare and electronic surveillance training in Australia.

“By enabling Australian Defence Force ranges, the US government will ensure consistency in training across platforms and theatres, whether the exercises are conducted in the United States or in Australia, where US aircrews will be able to participate in training exercises alongside their Australian counterparts,” the DSCA stated on December 5.

“The proposed sale will allow continued efforts to improve Australia’s capability in current and future coalition operations. Australia will use the range to enhance electronic warfare capabilities as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence.”

Comments

  1. Flyer says

    @ Paul..
    My guess would be Woomera and up north around Bradshaw or Delamere training areas for use in the big exercises like Pitch Black…

  2. says

    To all you naysayers saying the Super-Growler is not up to scratch.This is a formidable combo when u throw in all the other force multipliers.Speaking to some of the Singaporeans at Avalon,they were jealous.

  3. John N says

    Paul,

    I don’t think too many people are giving the SHornet and the Growler a kicking in regard to their relevance as at “today”, its the future “tomorrow” that will eventually decide if they are “up to scratch” or not.

    Whilst no doubt “today” the RAAF’s SHornets are the most capable combat airframes in its inventory, the question will be, how relevant and capable will they be by around 2030? And I suspect not as relevant as at today, compared to when the F-35A’s are in RAAF service, and by that time the F-35’s will be well beyond Block 3F software, probably well beyond the planned Block 4 software upgrades of the early 2020’s too.

    As for the Growler, with the “new” Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) capability it will deliver to the RAAF, it will have more relevance for longer than the Shornets, and especially in the early to mid 2020’s when the old AQL-99 pods are replaced with the NGJ pods, the Growler is only as good as the AEA pods it will carry, its not the airframe specifically, its the capability.

    I suspect that whilst the RAAF will want to continue to maintain an AEA capability well into the future, well beyond the 2030’s and so on, the question will be more about what “airframe” delivers that capability.

    AEA is developing at a fast pace, and I suspect too that when the Growler “airframes” are at the end of their useful life in RAAF service, the capability will no doubt continue, but that “capability” may also be borne by the F-35’s themselves which have a “built in” EW capability and that will be enhanced by the various future software Block upgrades and eventually their ability to carry NGJ pods and weapons such as AARGM (the successor to HARM).

    I think that in many ways the RAAF sees the Shornets (Gen 4.5) as the “bridge” from Gen 4 Classic Hornet to Gen 5 F-35’s, I would also see the Growler as the “beginning” of it’s future AEA capability, what follows it is a question still to be answered, that capability could either be appropriated equipped F-35’s or possibly a UAV/UCAV of the future too.

    Over the last 30-40 years or so, we have become used to a new aircraft having a “service life” of up to 30 years, but it you go back further in time military aircraft were often “obsolete” well before the airframe reached the end of their useful life (because of technology advancements), in fact some aircraft were obsolete before the final airframe was delivered!

    I suspect that the Shornet will be obsolete, in technology terms, before the airframes are, and the Growler, will probably be the same, though it will probably have a lot longer time in service.

    Again, it’s not the airframe, it’s the capability that will determine if it’s “up to scratch”!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  4. says

    John,I see a lot of good points in your argument.First of all,stealth I think will be obsolete by 2030,due to improvements of ground based radars.No one on this forum knows how good the JSF will be,because we don’t have access to classified info.I agree the Growler will have more significance than SHornet.But I suppose this stealth question will be found out by 2025-2030.

  5. John N says

    Hi Paul,

    You think that stealth (eg, the F-35) will be obsolete by 2030? Well that is a rather bold statement.

    There are many questions over the so called anti-stealth radars being developed by Russia and China, and the various claims made too.

    It’s not so much a question if one of these radars can see a so called stealth aircraft, but more of if it can generate a useful targeting track for a missile to follow, that is the big question.

    A lot of reports/articles suggest that these so called anti-stealth radars are useful only as early-warning systems. All they can do is alert air-defence to the likely presence of low-observable aircraft in a general area, anyway time will no doubt tell.

    But putting aside ‘stealth’, the F-35 is not just that, it’s the data fusion, situational awareness, etc, capabilities too.

    Regardless of the above, come 2030 if I was sitting in the drivers seat of fast jet going into a ‘hot environment’, I know which one I’d want to be strapped into, and it wouldn’t be a Super Hornet!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  6. Fabian says

    It is possible for the government to do a small change of plans and upgrade all their super hornet aircraft to the ” advanced super hornet” configuration ( F-18E ) that has significant stealth enhancements and fuel enhancements. But Paul you are right, ground radars are getting stronger and better by the years.

  7. Hayden Roberts says

    maybe a stealth and advanced tech remodeling of the hornet (basically the stealth and tech of the f-35 on the hornets body) would be good to come out around 2025, “H” and “I” models

  8. John N says

    Advanced Super Hornet? Stealth Super Hornet? You have to be kidding!

    Who is going to pay for all of this development on a small production run of airframes? Who?

    Why try and turn a Gen 4 aircraft into a ‘sort of’ Gen 5 aircraft? Why?

    On the other hand, being a partner nation in the F-35 program means that we will be part of a very large pool of users for approx. 3000 airframes where over the next three decades all of the various upgrades and enhancement costs will be shared by that large pool of users.

    Advanced Super Hornet? Stealth Super Hornet? No thanks!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  9. John N says

    Just a few more points regarding the ‘so called Advanced Super Hornet (ASH)’.

    Back in 2013 when Boeing launched, or should I say, tried to launch it’s ASH concept, it came with a whole range of ‘proposed’ enhancements, conformal fuel tanks, enclosed centreline weapons pod, enhanced engines, various ‘stealth’ enhancements, upgraded sensors and cockpit, etc, all looked good on ‘paper’.

    On paper you say? Didn’t they fly a demonstrator I hear you ask? In fact the demonstrator that Boeing flew was a ‘standard’ F/A-18F, no more, no less.

    The conformal fuel tanks were ‘dummies’, the centreline weapons pod was a ‘dummy’ too, and none, repeat none, of the other enhancements had been done to the airframe (because they don’t exist in reality!). It was an ‘aerodynamic’ representation of what an ASH would look like.

    So how much would an ASH cost ‘if’ it came into production? First up the US Govt and USN have shown no interest in the Boeing ASH proposal, so R&D costs would have to be borne by whoever ordered it.

    Boeing itself (and you can all Google this info), said R&D costs would be approx. US$1B, and each ASH would reportedly be 10%-15% more expensive than a standard F/A-18F.

    If a nation today wanted an ASH as proposed by Boeing, and lets say it wanted 100 airframes, it would be the cost of an existing SH, plus 10%-15% extra, PLUS US$10m per airframe to recover the US$1B R&D costs, all starts to get very expensive doesn’t it?

    And if that one nation that ordered those 100 ASH was to upgrade them a few times in their service life, they would be up for the ‘whole’ cost of ASH upgrades too, get’s a bit expensive, doesn’t it?

    And an update on the ASH too, three years after Boeing launched it’s ASH proposal, it’s 2016 ASH ‘Mk II’ proposal has been scaled back significantly, bit of a reality check??

    Anyway, don’t want to appear to be the ‘Christmas Grinch’ (yes there is no Santa, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy), hope no kiddies are reading this, but there is also definitely not an ASH either!

    Cheers,

    John N

    PS, Merry Christmas too all!!

  10. Harry says

    John, I couldn’t agree with you more on all three posts. Well said.

    Anti-stealth radar can now, and most probably into the future, detect stealth, but in a way that it cannot pinpoint its location. Its like doing a broad sweep that says, yes there is possibly stealth aircraft in the wide search area of the radar. But there is no way that the anti-stealth radar can track the F-35. Regular radar would have to be very close to achieve that track, which means enemy radars can say there is a stealth aircraft opposing aircraft cannot target it, even at long range. They most likely need to be within Mac-1 eyeball distance to actually provide a target solution.

    And there is no stealth SHornet. Its never going to happen. The closest there is to something like that is the F-15 Stealth Eagle, a conceptual plane. Interestingly the US is planning to put the NGJ on the F-15s to compliment the F-35s.

  11. Law says

    Oh boy, John N, I can almost visualise you popping a blood vessel trying to explain LO basics to these guys!

    Paul: ‘Stealth’ doesn’t really become obsolete. ‘Stealth’ also means different things across time. Low Observability is a more accurate term and in this current age can refer to thermal, radar return and electronic emission reduction/control amongst several other things.

    I can only assume your statements stem from reports of *magical* Chinese and Russian ‘anti-stealth’ radars being developed? I say magical because to do what is being claimed/implied/hyped would somewhat require them to break the laws of physics. What these ‘anti-stealth’ radars can actually do is nothing new. Low frequency radars have a very long and well documented ability to ‘see’ LO aircraft. LF radars also tend to be very large, very obvious targets and lack the ability to provide a precise enough return for a missile track. These systems are a very credible ‘early warning’ system against LO aircraft but somewhat limited in the manner they can contribute to a kill. If you were to network multiples of these systems together and use them to vector in aircraft and missiles with IR/ST seekers you might be getting close to a workable system but such a system would be very susceptible to decoys and obvious counter tactics. In a real shooting war it would be disassembled rather quickly.

    Remember ‘stealth’ doesn’t mean invisible. It is just a reduction in detection range in different aspects. It forces your enemy to concentrate defences (at great cost/sacrifice) and gives you the ability to tip-toe around the kind of defences a 4th gen wouldn’t have a chance in, getting close enough to kill those assets. Kicking the doors down. 4th gens are flying barns and always will be. The F-35 is more of a golf ball in comparison. it will have the ability to see before being seen for a long time yet.

    Fabian: The ‘Advanced Super Hornet’ doesn’t actually exist. It was only ever a concept and pretty much died earlier this year when Boeing ‘matured its thinking’ (flightglobal) and relaunched a scaled back configuration with even fewer (very token) LO features. At the moment it’s pretty much just a Growler’ised SHornet with some nice cockpit features and some tack on stuff the F-35 has had from the start, built in. As the current SHornet costs almost as much as our majority production F-35’s will, it really doesn’t make sense to invest further in what will be an already obsolete airframe.

    Hayden: You simply can’t tack on LO features on an airframe that was never built to have it. It’s not paint. It’s not a module you hang off the bottom. What you are suggesting is an entirely new airframe. Luckily, they’ve made it and it’s called the F-35. All the pilots and ground support guys are very happy with it! It’s so far ahead of what a traditional fighter/bomber is that it is radically changing how they think and use it. It’s like they’ve been handed a smartphone after decades of using a Nokia 1600.

    The Growler capability is fantastic to have and gives Australia a really nice niche capability for the next couple of decades. It is just a stepping stone though, and once the NGJ is available and paired to the F-35, that will then become the replacement. These new training range aids will be seeing use for some time to come!

  12. John N says

    Hi Harry and Law,

    I was starting to feel like the odd man out here for a while!!

    Appreciate both your comments and agree 100% too (and yes Law, I was just about to pop a blood vessel too!!).

    As I tried to say from the beginning, the current SH and the soon to enter service Growler are great capabilities for the RAAF, but……

    And that ‘but’ is we are just about to enter a complete change in how air combat is done, despite the ‘so called’ anti-stealth radars (which both of you also explained in clarity too).

    In regard to the Super Hornet, we all know the old saying about the Pig, doesn’t matter how much lipstick you put on it, it’s still a Pig!

    As far as the Growler is concerned, yes it is a whole new capability, but lets not get bogged down on the Growler airframe, its the capability, and its the enhancements of that capability over the years to come that will matter, regardless of which ‘airframe’ continues to provide that capability.

    Quick question, do either of you frequent DT? (DefenceTalk), if you do, then you may know who I am.

    Cheers,

    John N

    PS, and again, Happy Christmas to all (even if I don’t agree with you!!)

  13. says

    Law,u say these ground crew and pilots are saying it is amazing,I’m am sure they are.What do u expect them to say.Oh its crap and and won’t work.I am not a JSF kicker,but with all these wiz bang tech in it?Yes we all know its situational awareness is amazing,and yes it’s LO is great.People do not believe all this hyped up talk.No one and I repeat NO ONE knows how good it is.I will make my assessment when it is battle proven.U guys must have very high clearances in the military,or u guys r just going off what the propaganda machine says.

  14. BJ says

    The majority of the ASH upgrades were ridiculous and unnecessary for a 4.5 generation aircraft. The only two the USN (and the other Super Hornet operators no doubt) were the improved F414 and the conformal fuel tanks. Boeing appears to have done some further work on the conformal tanks, but as of yet no orders- they would certainly be handy for the “tanker birds” on US carriers, and also the Growler, giving it either more loiter time or more ARM’s or jamming pods. They are the most likely of all the proposals to go ahead.

    And personally I agree stealth will be obsolete by 2030 at the latest – there are other measures in the pipeline to neutralise stealth – Laser-radar and sound directional detection,

    OTH-B can detect stealth, as can look-down AESA in certain conditions. As soon as the gap between detection/being able to kill a stealth jet is perfected, the F-35 is going to be a death trap in a dogfight!

  15. John N says

    Hi Paul,

    Do I work in Aviation and what is my role if I did? Why the questions? What relevance does what I do (or not do), have to do with anything?

    Mate, not about to ask you what you do or don’t do (none of my business), this is not the forum for that.

    What I will say is that I have nothing to do that is Defence related or the DoD itself in anyway shape or form, ok?

    But I do have regular contact with what I will call ‘Defence Professionals’, people who I trust and respect for both their professional opinions and deep knowledge on a whole range of subjects too.

    Cheers,

    John N

  16. says

    Sorry if that came across that way,I didn’t mean that in a bad way.Relevance you say?As I have said 200 times,No one knows its capabilities yet until you have a TS/SCI clearance.You know of respectable people?Me too.Do I work in the aviation world ?yes I do.But I have no info on the 35s capabilities,so like I said.No one knows.Only the people involved.The majority of people on this forum are jumping on the propaganda freight train,with tin cans and a sign with JUST MARRIED trailing on the back of an F-35.

  17. John N says

    Hi Paul,

    No offence taken, ok?

    Yes it is true, unless people have the necessary levels of clearance, well then it is all subjective and individual and uneducated opinions, all true.

    But when you talk about ‘propaganda’ (specifically the F-35) that actually works both ways, there is the fore and against, it’s like religion, you either believe or you don’t, simple as that.

    What I have learnt over many years is that the ‘anti F-35 brigade’ is very very uninformed, and yes there are people on the ‘pro’ side that are equally unformed too.

    All I can say from my own ‘personal’ perspective, and from all that I have learned from those ‘Defence Professionals’ that I know, is despite all the ‘negative’ press the F-35 receives, the reality is actually the opposite.

    Lets all hope the Govt and RAAF is correct in it’s choice, and from what I have learnt, it is the 100% correct choice too.

    Cheers,

    John N

  18. Harry says

    John, I don’t usually visit DefenceTalk much… I already have way to many think tanks, blogs and online magazines I follow already. Ive actually had to cut down on them.

    Re: the pro- vs anti-f-35. I often switch my assessments but one thing still has me worried. Its the lack of armament and the poor historical success of BVR missiles. In the past all the way up to the Iraq wars, BVR missile success ratio have been abysmal. You can find articles about it on the national interest and war on the rocks. There was one link to an american article on the washington post or NYT (I can’t remember exactly)? But it said for every BVR missile (in the past) it had 15% or below chance of taking down a target, with two missiles going up to 25% or something.

    There was one example where 2 x F-15 fired 4 x AMRAAMS at two unaware and unchanged flight of 2 x Iraqi Migs and the missiles completely missed. And other stats giving examples that in most BVR kills the targets were often unaware and didn’t change course, etc. But if they were aware and evading incoming missiles they often could survive by manoeuvring, etc.

    I know missiles have come a long way in the last decades since the GW but those were very disconcerting statistics re: BVR. While missile tech and effectiveness have undoubtedly been increased so too has countermeasures, especially the electronic kind. So thats one of my main concerns and why I have argued hard for a second platform that would act as a missillier – a missile platform-like aircraft, such as the F-15, or hell the SHornets w/ the same role.

    Ill try and find the actual article, merry xmas!

  19. Harry says

    Sorry make that 6 AMRAAMS. The article is with the national interest. It explains the poor historical performance of BVR missile combat. The Gulf War seems to be the exception until you actually take a closer look at the detail of those engagements. Modern US aircraft up against dilapidated early-mid Cold War-era soviet aircraft w/ pilots with not as good training, aeroplanes w/ poorer maintenance etc. And the examples are quite interesting. There was a second article on the same site but it doesn’t have a link (it seems to be hidden).

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418430/what-if-worlds-most-expensive-fighter-planes-cant-defeat-our-enemies-mike-fredenburg

  20. says

    Hi John,yes I agree to about the anti 35 people.They are uninformed as much as the pro 35 group.Lets just hope it’s as good as they say it is.Wouldnt it be nice if 2 Aussie F-35s come to Avalon.Its about time they show them off.

  21. Law says

    John N,

    Yes I do frequent DT and do know (and respect) your username but prefer to stay behind the talk. It’s probably the only forum I’ve encountered where I don’t feel any reason to try intervene in correcting misinformation as the culprits are generally neutered quickly and quietly with facts and information. The talkers there are mostly on the ball and understand the topics they engage. Quite a pleasure to read. I use a different username in mil forums but I’m always about. Cheers.

  22. says

    As for forums(this is the only one I’m on) most of them are armchair experts,with limited clearances.Are we laments supposed to look up to u and ask for autographs?