US approves RAAF Super Hornet radio and countermeasures upgrades

The US Department of State has approved possible radio and countermeasures upgrades for the Royal Australian Air Force’s 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets under an estimated US$101.4 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program deal.

The Australian Government has requested the possible sale of 32 units of the Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS JTRS) and 39 ALQ-214A(V)4 RF countermeasure systems, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced on July 11. The prime contractor would be Harris.

“This equipment will help the Royal Australian Air Force better communicate with and protect its F/A-18 aircraft, and the addition of MIDS JTRS will accomplish the goal of making US and Australian aircraft more interoperable when supporting operational forces,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency stated.

Comments

  1. Fabian says

    sometimes I just think we should get more super hornets as a second main fleet that will fly with the F-35. its highly proven and just a great aircraft overall.

  2. says

    Highly agree there Fabian.With Blk 111 now given approval and the Rhino getting a lot more lethal,it would be silly to get rid of them soon.With the real testing just starting to get underway with the F-35 with 3f getting installed,it is a great hedge bet to put your money on.I can feel the barrage of comments coming.

  3. says

    Does anyone know how busy Amberley is at the moment with TS17? And does anyone know what foreign assets are there at the moment?

  4. Mick181 says

    Paul & Fabian
    I think the current SHornet & Growler fleets will be around well into the 2030s, operating alongside the F-35s. It will be difficult for the RAAF to convince Govt to replace aircraft that will still have plenty of life in their Airframes, still in service with the USN so have an upgrade path, still be capable of operating against anything but the most Advanced AD systems.

  5. Fabian says

    Mick181
    I know that sniper hornets and growlers will be in service but I think the government should have a much larger fleet of super hornets. ( I know that we may not have the money) but this will definitely boost the raaf in capability.

  6. the road runner says

    RAAF is to small to have a number of different fighter types. Every different fighter we purchase , we loose a fighter squadron that becomes a training squadron… JSF all the way… keep the Growlers as a specialist capability and retire the F-18Fs

  7. Mick181 says

    Fabian
    Current planning has the SHornets being replaced from the mid 2020s, with another 28 F-35As nearly the unbackable favourite at this stage but I’ll believe that will happen when i see it, it will not be an easy sell for the RAAF for the reasons I’ve given above.
    The RAAF have had 5 Fast Jet Sqns now since the 60s to Raise,Train Sustain even one more sqn would be very, very expensive so unlikely to happen at this stage.

  8. Corey D says

    For the RAAF to gain a 6th and even 7th Fast Jet (Fighter) squadron actually wouldn’t be that hard. Pilots could be made up of a mix of new Aussie trained pilots from the ground up and also take transfers from the USN, Royal Canadian Air Force along with any other branch of the military. The same would go for maintainers. So if we were to gain a 6th, 7th, 8th and so on squadrons they’d have to employ a minimum of what 12 -24 pilots and 70-100 maintainers. Then there are the costs of weapons which then would require our stocks to be increased. The purchase of a minimum 24 Advanced Super Hornets Es would be $2.784 billion fly away including spare parts etc, $200 million for base upgrades, $2.5+ billion over 10 years for sustainment. So we’re looking at a A$5.5 billion just for 1 additional squadron. Spread that out over 4 years that’s $750 million per year. Money well spent in my view and provides just that bit more additional capability and air superiority to at least 2040. ideally, an additional 2 fighter squadrons would be awesome. Hell just cut foreign aid by $250 million and $500+ million from welfare and boom there’s the additional funding. If we clamped down on welfare we could buy additional jets, ships, tanks etc and pay for additional troops.

  9. Hayden.R says

    I still think we need an air fighter, the f-35 is more of a strike aircraft. i know about all of the jsf shoot before it knows idea but things will change and other aircraft will be equivalent or better than the F-35.

  10. Mick181 says

    Guys we are all forgetting the amount of money and effort that is currently going into our force multipliers, the 6 E-7s, 5 soon to 7 and plan for 9 KC-30s, 3-5 E-550s, 15 P-8s, 12 Growlers, 8 C-17s, 12 new Subs, 3 large Amphibs all these combine to give the RAAF the ability to put their Fighters in the right place at the right time. Thats why History is full of smaller Armies beating bigger ones because they got in the prime position 1st.
    I would rather see the RAAF with another Heavy Lift sqn 1st to improve the ability to quickly deploy to the Northern Bare Base Airfields and support those deployments and more KC-30s fitted with Cargo doors.

  11. MikeofPerth says

    One thing that is certain is the procurement of the super hornets has given the RAAF time to consider the options available in future. They could indeed decide to just replace them with more F-35s or maybe only replace 12 and convert the 12 pre-wired models to Growlers to give more full spectrum EW capability. There is also developments in UCAVs that could be used to replace them in future.

    The RAAF should also keep an eye on what he US military is doing with 6th generation fighters/Next Generation Air Dominance platforms that they are currently studying to replace the F-15 and supplement the F-22. I think whatever the US does with that in future it may need to consider involving close allies like Australia as the US is declining in relative power and can’t afford to go it alone with all their high end military hardware in the future.

  12. Mick181 says

    MikeofpPerth
    Can’t see a F-22 replacement before the 2040s, the only designs around are on paper and considering it’s nearly 20yrs since the F-35 was chosen over the X-32 (contender for the ugliest aircraft ever to fly) and we are years away from a RFT.

  13. Corey D says

    Mick181 I agree additional heavy lift and cargo aircraft are needed. The RAAF could convert aircraft 8 & 9 into freighter tankers along with an additional 3 on top for a total fleet of 12. There is also the option to buy new 747-8Fs and 777Fs for cargo which can be transported via commercial based cargo aircraft. Everyone has already done it including the US military so why not just go out and buy our own fleet. I’d like to either see a mix of A400Ms and additional C-130-30J or additional C130s but in the KC-130J platform all upgraded to Block 8.1 and to have a minimum 2 aerial fire fighting ro-ro containers. The Current KC-30As would need extensive conversions which is unfeasible because it would take much-needed aircraft out of service for too long so converting aircraft 8 & 9 would be more feasible. Airbus don’t make the A330F with GE engines sadly.

  14. John N says

    Time for a bit of a reality check here.

    Firstly, yes great, the Super Hornets are going to be upgraded, as expected, until their planned retirement in 2030 (13 years from now), and will no doubt be kept as viable as possible until that date too.

    But, there will not be any more Super Hornets, not going to happen. And the ‘fast jet’ combat fleet is not going to be expanded beyond the current budgeted approx. 100 airframes, (excluding the 12 Growlers, different requirement).

    Does my heart want a larger combat fleet? sure of course! But my head says the reality is that’s not going to happen. Whilst the Defence Budget is increasing, the pie is only so big and can 0nly be sliced up in so many ways, lots of competing ‘priorities’ across the ‘whole’ of the ADF, not just the RAAF (which has done pretty well in recent times and continues to do so too).

    Increasing the combat fleet (regardless of airframe types), is a very expensive exercise, not just in airframe acquisition, but basing, manpower (air and ground), and all of the other necessary weapons and support systems, etc, etc, etc, (the list goes on!).

    As to Mick’s comment: “It will be difficult for the RAAF to convince Govt to replace aircraft that will still have plenty of life in their Airframes”, sorry Mick but that is wrong.

    The RAAF doesn’t have to do a ‘hard sell’ on the Government. In the 1016 DIIP the Government already has a project in place for the eventual 4th Sqn of F-35As, and it’s not just a ‘plan’ with no funding, the Government has also approved a budget of between $6b-$7b for that 4th Sqn.

    Yes sure the Super Hornets will have airframe ‘left’ on them, at least another 10 years, but what do you think the RAAF wants? What it really wants is a fleet of approx. 100 5th Gen airframes, not a mixed fleet of 4th and 5th Gen airframes.

    And lets be clear, I’m not giving the Super Hornet a kicking, not at all, but by 2030, I’ll be happy to see them bow out gracefully and see the RAAF be a 5th Gen air force with a complete 5th Gen fast jet combat force too.

    One more thing, most ‘Western’ air forces have been reduced in airframe numbers over recent years, on the other hand the RAAF has ‘maintained’ those numbers and has also increased in capability too.

    Cheers,

    John N

  15. Mick181 says

    I’m aware of current plans John but the pessimist comes out in me and we are still 7-8 yrs away from ordering the 4th sqn of F-35s and a lot can happen in that time and the relatively youthfull age of the SHornets would make them a target for any Government looking to make cuts to defence spending, as the old saying goes don’t count your Chickens to they hatch.
    I will believe we are definitely getting the new Subs when I’ve heard of first steel cut, same as the Frigates, same as the OPVs, same as the Land 400 Vehicle’s.
    I hope we get everything thats in the DWP but history shows that things change, Governments change, new priorities emerge, we have to wait and see.

  16. says

    John N,I fully agree with you on the RAAF maintaining a jet for jet basis.With a lot of other Airforces reducing these.One thing? if we have one fast jet fleet(F-35) and a bug in the system grounds them(in a wartime scenario) we r dead.With all the problems with the F-35,I think a mixed fleet would make sense.50 F-35s 50 Rhinos.Just a thought.

  17. says

    And secondly,the real testing for the F-35 will happen when 3 F is installed.Currently writing this at Amberley.

  18. John N says

    Mick,

    Yes of course things can change and with changes of Government too, but fortunately both the LNP and the ALP are pretty much on the same page regarding Defence these days (not 100% but about as bipartisan as you can get).

    Yes there is always the risk of another ‘left of the left’ Gillard type Government that could take money out of defence and redirect it elsewhere, but I’ll try not to be too pessimistic about that.

    But lets also look at the fact that by the mid 2020’s (when the project to procure that 4th Sqn is due to happen, 2025-2031), the vast majority of the RAAF’s airframes (of all types), will have already been replaced, there won’t be many other RAAF projects ‘competing’ for money, I think that $6b-7b budget allocation for the 4th Sqn is pretty safe to say the least.

    The aircraft types that would require replacements (in that time period), is the replacement of the Hawk 127s (already planned and budgeted for), and the likely replacement of the C-130Js at around 2030 too, again, I don’t see the budget allocation for the 4th F-35A Sqn being at ‘risk’ from other RAAF projects.

    But for the sake of the argument, lets say the Government does decide in 2025 that the Super Hornets will stay in service until their airframe life runs out, which would be around 2040, it would have to start a ‘new’ replacement project somewhere just prior to 2035 for that. That doesn’t make sense to me, its only delaying the inevitable.

    Anyway, lets see what happens!!

    Paul,

    You said: “If we have one fast jet fleet (F-35) and a bug in the system grounds them (in a wartime scenario) we r dead. With all the problems with the F-35, I think a mixed fleet would make sense.50 F-35s 50 Rhinos”.

    I think we look at things from different angles, if there was a glass filled half way in front of us, you would probably say its half empty, I’d probably say it was half full (no offence ok?).

    Yes there could be an F-35A ‘bug in the system’, equally there could be bug in the system of the Rhino, the E-7A, the P8A, etc, etc. Anything is possible, but not necessarily probable.

    As for the Block 3F software, the real testing will happen when it’s installed?? It’s already being tested in the US, they are not going to complete the software ‘then’ install it and ‘see what happens’.

    You also need to remember that 3F is not completely ‘new’ software, it will build upon 3i and of course Block 4 will build on 3F, and so on and so on with the various Block upgrades into the future.

    But lets look at the RAAF’s schedule for the introduction of the F-35A, 2020 will be IOC (three years from now) and FOC will be 2023 (six years from now).

    Glass half empty? Or glass half full?

    Cheers!!

    John N

  19. Fabian says

    I know they are long gone, but if only we had f-22s , we could make a perfect fleet of f-22s and f-35s. I know the f-35 can do Air to air, but Australia still needs an air superiority fighter

  20. John N says

    Fabian,

    Despite what has been reported in the media over the years about the F-22 not being available for export, the RAAF never seriously considered asking for it regardless. It simply doesn’t have the multi-role capabilities that the RAAF was seeking.

    So do we need an air superiority fighter? Which other country are we likely to encounter that will have an equivalent of the F-22?

    The world has changed and evolved, multi role capabilities is where it is at now.

    Cheers,

    John N

  21. the road runner says

    A lot of you guys who want an Air Defence fighter miss the point … Aircraft on the ground are a sitting duck … The RAAF is not in it for a fair fight ! Why do we have to turn and burn and fight in the air ? Why can we not ..destroy them on the ground …weather it be threw JSF..Cruise missile strikes with planes , subs or ships..or raiding party’s with commando’s?

    Why does it always have the be the glory of Top Gun/turn and burn? This is why the RAAF is investing in ISR asset’s like JSF,Wedgetail, P-8s,Tritons ,Reapers(one can hope) ….so we get the big picture… Information is the most important asset the ADF can have!

    The JSF is the most important asset the Western Airforces have ! It is being purchased in huge numbers. Its to big to fail.Its proving itself in Red Flag exercises where they play for keeps!

    https://theaviationist.com/2017/02/28/red-flag-confirmed-f-35-dominance-with-a-201-kill-ratio-u-s-air-force-says/

    Yet you guys still want a 4th gen fighter or a F22 that is not even being made anymore,,,
    I for one am glad the RAAF saw the wisdom to jump on the JSF bandwagon !
    With JSF we have a Mini Awacs a sensor,a node to share information,a fighter ,a bomber,EW/EA,an ISR asset all flying from one air frame,with one training doctrine,one supply chain! We are talking billions of dollars being saved by not having to buy other asset’s to do what JSF does! Money that can be spent on other needs for our war fighters

    Anti JSF people can not absorb information….one thing the JSF can do!

    Rant over !

  22. says

    John N,I understand what you mean and you are right that a bug can happen in any platform.The problem is that the F-35 is still such a work in progress that it is more vulnerable to this because of how complex it is.I know that 3f builds on 3i and so on and so on, but having a mix would give the RAAF more flexibility and capability.As I have said in the past a lot of the times,that the F-35 has still a lot of ongoing problems and there will be more when 3f is going through its flight testing.I for one hopes that it all goes smoothly and problem free so we can get blk 4 in and so on.Cheers.

  23. Dee Thom says

    Fabian, the last superiority fighter that the RAAF had was the F-86 Sabre, with maybe the Mirage part fighter, part missile launch pad.
    Now days with say the Wedgetail/F-18 combination the ability to track, and target multiple “Bandits” using fire and forget long range missiles is the norm. With the addition of the stealth F-35 this will only get better, and the RAAF will be far ahead of any Airforce that relys on Russian platforms, in our area.

  24. Harry says

    I would dearly love to see a dedicated air superiority fast jet added to the mix like the F-15s, of which the latest fully specced models are great. And in the past I have advocated-more like wished-for this. And there could be a niche capability requirement for it. But in the end I agree that realistically its never going to happen.

    I would settle for upgrades to the SH fleet to advanced concept models w/ conformal fuel tanks and the rest (http://airwingmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/F18-Advanced-Super-Hornet-3.png), but more importantly seeing the SH become a shooter platform; with this it can be upgraded to carry 16 air-to-air missiles and acting in conjunction with the Growlers and F-35s the RAAF would be unstoppable in the region (https://thaimilitaryandasianregion.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/hornetinfinity.jpg?w=625).

  25. John N says

    Hi Paul,

    I think at the end of the day you and I are going to agree to disagree, no problem there, I still think you are being a bit pessimistic (again no offence ok?).

    It’s not like we are all going to wake up tomorrow and find 72 F-35As delivered, 71 Classic Hornets cut up for scrap, suddenly find there are major issues with the F-35 and have to rely on the Rhino and Growler fleets as our only combat aircraft.

    It is still six (6) years before FOC is planned to be declared (late 2023) with the RAAF’s F-35A fleet, not six days, or weeks, or months, but six year (again, IOC is planned for late 2020).

    The next batch of eight F-35A airframes (from LRIP10) are due end of 2018, another eight end of 2019, 15 in 202o, another 15 in 2021 and so on, until the last airframes arrive in late 2023.

    And during that time period there will be a methodical and gradual draw down of the Classic Hornets as each of the four Squadrons transition to the F35A.

    Yes no doubt there will be temporary reductions in capability as each Classic Squadron transitions during that period, but we also have the luxury of the Super and Growler fleets too.

    Three years to IOC is still a long time, six years to FOC is doubly as long.

    I still don’t see the need for a mixed fleet, a 50/50 mixed fleet as you suggested, as I’ve said in the past, I’ll be more than happy to see 100 F-35A’s in service by 2030 (17 years away), and the Super Hornets retired.

    Cheers,

    John N

  26. says

    DeeThom,fully agree mate.Russian platforms are 10-15 years behind western tech.We will always be the toughest kids on the block.The transition into what the RAAF is today compared to 10-15 years ago is astonishing.Go RAAF.

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