Australia and US sign Next Generation Jammer development MOU

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the US Navy have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly develop the ALQ-249 Next Generation Jammer Mid-band (NGJ-MB) capability.

Next Generation Jammer is an external jamming pod that will replace the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System on EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft.

The jammer technology will be cooperatively matured by the RAAF and the Airborne Electronic Attack Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234). The MOU provides the framework for communication, coordination and cooperation during engineering and manufacturing development.

“This is a very important milestone for both nations, one that took four years of communication and collaboration to successfully achieve,” Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies said in a statement on November 2.

“As this is a rapidly evolving area, we will work in partnership with the US Navy to develop the next-generation jamming capability, which will ensure that our aircraft remain at the technological forefront throughout their service life.”

Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, Head Aerospace Systems Division within the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), attended the signing, which was held on October 18 in Hawaii.

Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne announced in March that Australia would be partnering with the US to develop a next-generation radar and radio jammer for the Growler at a cost of $250 million.

Comments

  1. Philip says

    This is a kind of a ‘had to do’ as well.

    As all RAAF Growler training is in the US with the USN, the RAAF needed to have the ‘wizzos in the back’ using the same kit as the USN, now and into the future.

    Read between the lines, the real benefit is a technical knowledge sharing of this jammer technology between the USDF and the ADF.

  2. Peter says

    Now is the time to convert the other 12 wired for growler aircraft and purchase another 12 super hornets.

  3. says

    Wondering why the Hornets couldnt be upgraded for WAY less than the JSF!!!? Sounds like a great way to get rich if your a senior “official” at the defence Dept!

  4. Philip says

    Peter: My ‘Armchair Chief of Staff’ money is on the RAAF confirmation during the early 2020’s that the F-35A’s are taking over all F-18F duties/roles and consequently the Government will agree to convert the 12x prewired Rhinos to Growlers, but release the remaining 12x Rhinos for sale (or spares).

    This could also justify a future uplift in the total number of F-35A’s purchased towards the original 100 aircraft target, now supported by an expanded fleet of 24 Growlers.

  5. says

    Bluntly, I too love the Rhino as it has some awesome tech in it. I used to be a fence sitter about the JSF., but it is the way to go. As Philip says if we get 24 Growlers and 100 35s, this will be a game changer. It would be great to upgrade the the Rhinos to blk111 and keep them.

  6. John N says

    Seriously Guys?

    Double the Rhino fleet? Double the Growler fleet? and 100 F-35A too??

    As most here would know, I’m all for the RAAF (and Defence generally), to have as large and as capable a forces as possible, but where does the budget come from for all of this? Where?

    And it’s not just procuring or upgrading airframes, its air and ground crews, basing and infrastructure, where does the extra budge come from? And without stealing dollars from some other project or capability too.

    Last years DWP and DIIP set a pretty clear path up until around 2030 with a clear list of projects across the whole of the ADF and all programed in to receive their share of the defence ‘pie’ when needed.

    What I hope (and expect to see), is that by the end of 2023 we have all 72 approved F-35A in service, operating alongside the 24 F/18F and the 12 EA/18G’s (and supported by KC-30A, E-7A, P-8A, Triton and the G550 fleet).

    And by around the mid 2020’s, the Government of the day approves the last batch of F-35A to replace the F/A-18F’s and have a fleet structure, around 2030, of 100 F-35A and 12 EA-18G’s (plus supporting aircraft types).

    As to the 24 F/A-18F’s, one would hope that by then the Growler fleet has show it’s worth, and with the Next Gen Jammer in service too that there would be the possibility to keep some (or all?) of the 12 pre-wired Super Hornets as at least an ‘attrition’ reserve for the Growler fleet, or partial expansion of the fleet.

    Lets have baby steps first, then if proven and the budget available, a modest expansion too.

    Cheers,

    John N

  7. Darren says

    It’s a smart move on the part of the U.S. as i am sure they will tap into some Aussie ingenuity with a fresh look to build on their deph of experience.

    But what a fabulous piece of kit for the RAAF, and with the next gen jammer the Growler will only get better.

  8. Jasonp says

    24 Growlers as a part of a 100-120 aircraft combat fleet is too many. As an article in AA suggested a couple of months ago, the F/A-18Fs will probably be extended with Block III upgrades and will not be replaced until the mid 2030s.

  9. says

    John N, I never said that we will get 24 Growlers, I said it would be nice to have 24. This is possible due to the RAAF acquiring the last batch of 35s and to turn 12 F-18Fs into Growlers as they are presided to do so. The RAAF don’t need to take baby steps because they have everything in place, with a plan B if necessary. Cheers.

  10. John N says

    Paul,

    I never mentioned you specifically, ok? But the general theme of the various comments is ‘more’ of everything, as is usual.

    In regard to the 12 ‘pre-wired’ Super Hornets, the plan at the time (10 years ago) the 24 airframes were ordered, was that having 12 pre-wired, it gave the Government the ‘option’ to convert them to Growlers at a later date.

    This plan then changed again a few years later, rather than disrupting the Super Hornet fleet, it was decided to leave them as is and procure 12 ‘new build’ Growlers, which is what happened.

    So here we are today, 72 F-35A on order to replaced the 71 Classic Hornets, a decision to replace the 24 Super Hornets with the last 28 F-35A due around the mid 2020’s, and we are just seeing the 12 new build Growlers entering service.

    So again, here we are today, 12 new build Growlers delivered and everyone is presuming that the 12 pre-wired Super Hornets are still in the mix and being planned to be converted, that is not true, ok?

    Things are pretty clear, there will be four (4) operational fighter squadrons by the mid 2020’s, 3 x F-35A and 1 x F/A-18F (plus 2 OCU as the F-35A training squadron), PLUS the addition of the 1 x Growler Electronic Attack Squadron.

    And if all goes to plan with replacing the Super Hornets the RAAF structure by 2030 will be 4 x F-35A operational squadrons (plus 1 x training) and the 1 x Squadron of Growlers.

    Currently there is no plan to increase the number of Growlers, or increase the number of Squadrons (which all comes at a cost).

    So yes it is baby steps, we are just starting to get into AEA, the Growler Squadron will take a number of years to reach FOC, it’s a whole new area we have not been in before.

    There appears to be a clear path and plan to me, so what is this ‘Plan B’ that you mention??

    Cheers,

    John N

  11. says

    John N, the current plan B is the supers can be required to Growler specs. We all know that we are acquiring the 4th sqn of 35s ok!! We all know what it said in the white paper , but this can change to give the RAAF more flexibility. You say it will cost more for basing and infrastructure? They already have that in place at Amberley. Yes it is TRUE that they have thought about this but maybe it might not happen. I never said that it would.Whatever they put in the white paper doesn’t necessarily happen. Do you really think they would stick to this and let everyone ( including our enemies) know what they are doing? No baby steps for the RAAF, they are well ahead of us. Cheers.

  12. Craig says

    By the mid 2020s I’m thinking the RAAF will have one or two extra squadrons. An extra 12 Growlers with the 12 F-18Fs being used for training purposes seems reasonable. We will get 100 F-35s, maybe more!

  13. Philip says

    Paul / John N: For a look ahead to the RAAF Fast Jet fleet changes – please refer to Air Commodore Michael Kitcher, Director General Capability Planning (DGCP), in his presentation to the International Fighter conference; November 2015, London

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1QZEpWjVvU
    The pertinent statements are at 11.03 sec.

    Of course things may have changed in priorities since his speech but there is a major decision ahead in early 2020, which could affect the Rhinos and JSF fleet numbers.

    walking not crawling?

  14. Harry says

    John N & Jasonp – I agree with a lot of what you say, but is 12 Growlers enough to cover 100 F-35s? They will add a significant and complimentary capability but will wind up being used heavily in conjunction w/ the other squadrons. I see a real incentive for the RAAF to convert the 12 pre-wired Rhinos to Growlers, especially concerning this article’s news. This is something the USN itself envisions for their F-35s. They would work in conjunction with Rhinos and Growlers, possibly with a 2, 1, 1 or 2, 2, 1 squadron force structure (rough estimate based on defensenews.com article), at least initially (depending on the size of carrier wings).

    I also see a great capability w/ the Rhinos employed as ‘missiliers’; they can be upgraded to carry 16 missiles that the F-35s can then ‘capture’ and direct using the Networks warfare capabilities while remaining incognito due to their stealth. This is something the USAF itself envisions for their F-35s. They would work in conjunction with F-15s for many of the early years.

    Also, we all know that F-35s are not so stealthy from behind. A combination of Rhinos and Growlers working behind F-35s would perform excellently in the SEADs role, essentially covering the F-35s to conduct their main role, strike behind front lines.

    The future envisioned force of 100 F-35s + 12 Growlers doesn’t take us to the 134 or so fighter/bomber fleet we used to have. With a rise to 2% of GDP defence can possibly find room for 6 squadrons. And many these days are envisioning an Australia with an even greater funding pie. Nevertheless, in the end it is about money and RAAF seems keen to get the total of 100 F-35s as their primary platform. But I would hope they keep the salient points above in mind.

  15. says

    Philip, thanks for that link mate, very informative. As I said, it would make perfect sense to rewire 12 Rhinos to give the RAAF more punch. If a few Growlers get the flu, the RAAF will have that option to fall back on. Cheers.

  16. John N says

    Harry,

    Is 12 Growlers enough to cover 100 F-35A?

    Actually the Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, has clearly said a number of times that the F-35A does ‘not’ need Growler to operate effectively, in fact he said that he expects Growler to spend more time operating with Army and Navy than with the RAAF.

    The F-35A comes with its own EW capabilities, which I think most don’t realise, and no doubt those capabilities will increase with various future software Block upgrades too.

    With the budget available (and there are lots of competing priorities), 12 Growlers is not bad, at the least I’d certainly like to see the 12 pre wired Shornets kept as either an attrition reserve or allow for modest growth in Growler airframe numbers if required.

    You also said, “The future envisioned force of 100 F-35s + 12 Growlers doesn’t take us to the 134 or so fighter/bomber fleet we used to have.” Sorry, but when was the last time the RAAF had 134 or so airframes available as an operational fighter/bomber fleet? How far back are you going?

    From the early 80’s we’ve had 24 F-111C’s and 75 F/A-18 (nominally 99, less attrition) and yes there were the 15 F-111G’s, half of which were never flown and the remainder purely for training.

    We have to go back to the late 50’s, though the 60’s and early 70’s where we’ve seen 112 CA-27 Sabre, 116 Mirage, 48 Canberra, 24 F-4E and 24 F-111C’s (in various combinations) in service, but also with very high attrition levels (by today’s standards) to find a time when the RAAF ‘might’ have had a fleet of 134 or so fighters and bombers available for ‘active’ service.

    Lets not also forget that most ‘western’ air forces have reduced significantly in strength over recent decades, the RAAF on the other had has maintained airframe numbers (and grown too with the addition of Growler).

    More is great (certainly not against more), but again it all comes at a cost, and also not wanting to see some other capability disappear across the ADF to pay for it.

    Anyway, just my opinion of course too.

    Cheers,

    John N

  17. John N says

    Philip,

    Thanks for putting the link up, have seen the Air Commodore’s presentation before, but good to see it again.

    But I’m not sure about the point you are making, what he says from the 11min point onwards is what we already know (maybe you are hearing something that I’m not).

    To me he clearly says, we have commitments for 72 F-35A (a known fact), he says we have the ‘option’ for up to 100, eg, the extra 28 airframes (again a known fact) and he talks about the option of replacing Super Hornets with that last Squadron of F-35A (again another know fact).

    As the plan stands today (and in that 2015 presentation too), is that by the mid 2020’s we will have 72 x F-35A, 24 x F/A-18F and 12 x EA-18G and if the ‘option’ is taken up to proceed with the last squadron of F-35A, we will end up by the late 2020’s (by around 2030) with 100 x F-35A and 12 x EA-18G, (the 24 x F/A-18F will be gone and replaced by that last F-35A squadron).

    Cheers,

    John N

  18. Harry says

    John N – I am not actually advocating any particular opinion on the manner, but note the various possibilities, while also keeping costs in mind which is just realistic.

    Our RAAF F-35s might not require the Growlers to operate effectively, which is to say they won’t be flying in heavily contested areas. And, of course they will work really well w/ RAN, I agree. But nevertheless as I have said before the Growlers EW suite is actually different from the F-35s. From what I have read it can target more effectively a wider area in a wider set of bands whereas F-35 EW suite does something different and thus brings a complimentary capability w/ the the F-35, which is very useful in deep strike and SEADs – probably why the USAF talks about the combination. I would have to re-read the articles to argue better, but I am sure you are aware how to find such comparisons in reputable articles.

    (By the way those figures were off, I mistakenly included the Hawks, whoops…)

  19. Corey says

    It’s funny how people say well what about the budget we don’t have the money to pay for it when in fact we actually do have the money which is currently being wasted by the government. If the Government where smart over $200 billion would be saved elsewhere and put back into the ADF, AFP and ABF. That would enable us to triple or quadruple the size of the ADF, Double the AFP and ABF including additional Cape Class Patrol boats and additional cutters and corvettes with change :-). I agree it would be nice to see a larger ADF and in the past, I’ve called for it. However, until budgeting changes, we sadly won’t see it happen although it’s urgently needed and should have been done over 10 years ago! We only have our selfs to blame…..

  20. Philip says

    John N: Thanks. Yes, I agree with your summation of the 2015 presentation and your estimate of the fleet by the end of 2030, if the option is taken up in early 2020’s. I don’t believe I was questioning it. If the Australian Government during the early 2020’s choose to take on the additional F-35A squadron at the expense of the Rhinos, that will happen progressively over the mid 2020’s, not overnight.

    The idea I was offering was my earlier interest that the RAAF may be able to also convince the Government to shell out some further shekels and convert the 12x prewired Rhinos to full Growler configuration during that period, because they have identified the Growler’s value in support of (my opinion here) asymmetrical environments and where they don’t want to expose the F35As and their full bag of tricks.

    As it seems that the USN will also maintain its Growler platform into the 2030’s, aside from attrition, there appears to be a valid rationale in maintaining a healthy (… and expanded) Growler fleet for the RAAF into that decade as well.

    To quote you – “Anyway, just my opinion of course too”

  21. says

    Philip, I agree, the Growlers bring a great and unique capability and with the F-35s EW suite , this will give the RAAF enormous flexibility. Corey, I agree with you that the government can save a lot of wasted taxpayers money and put that into defence. My way would be to cut a lot of spending on foreign aid and Centrelink. Please give us a rundown of the $200 billion of savings, and where it would come from! Cheers.

  22. John N says

    Harry and Philip,

    Guys, I’m not trying to be a wet blanket and I’d certainly like the RAAF to be as capable as possible, as we all do, but it’s just not as simple as us ‘armchair Air Marshalls’ deciding what should or shouldn’t happen (wish it was as simple as that).

    At the end of the day Governments set Defence and Foreign policy, and the respective agencies or departments then have to go back to Government and state their case for what they require to fulfil those policies (and certainly within the budgets that are set for them too).

    In recent times the RAAF appears to have got most of what it wants.

    But moving forward from this point, the RAAF has to firstly convince Government that yes a 4th operational squadron of F-35A is needed, and if approved (as most think it will), then yes the last batch of F-35A will be ordered to replace the 24 F/A-18F airframes.

    Once that step is done, the RAAF will then have to make a case for an increased number of Growlers (if it believes it needs more), the question will then come down to if the Government will increase spending for that to happen or ask the RAAF what capability it might want to loose to pay for those extra Growlers to fit ‘within’ it’s budget allocation.

    Let’s not forget there is precedents for this, in the past when the first four C-17A came into service, the RAAF had to drop plans for an additional 2 C-130J and also had to ‘park’ four of the C-130H airframes (whilst the Government was prepared to ‘pay’ for the new airframes, the RAAF had to find a way to ‘pay’ for the manning and operation of those new airframes).

    Same thing for the RAN, it had to pay-off the first two Adelaide class FFG’s to ‘pay’ for the upgrade of the four younger ships, again, all things come at a cost one way or the other.

    So back to the question of if the 12 Growlers is enough, lets not also forget that originally back when the (then Government) ordered the 24 F/A-18F, and 12 to be pre-wired for conversion, the plan at that time, 2008, was to request approval from the US for ‘up to 6 Growler kits’.

    Subsequently (as we all know), the Government of the day, in 2012, then decided not to upgrade any of the prewired F/A-18F, but instead order 12 ‘new build’ Growlers.

    So as you can see at the start of this journey with the 24 Super Hornets, we went from acquiring 24 to replace the F-111C’s, we asked for 12 of them to be pre-wired, with a plan to eventually convert ‘up to six’, to then ordering 12 new build Growler instead.

    I could argue that in a matter of a few years the then ‘possible’ six future Growlers was upped to 12 new build, that is a 100% increase from the original plan.

    Again, the RAAF has to firstly convince Government to allow it to replace the Super Hornets with the last batch of 35A, it then has to put a plan to Government to increase the Growler fleet beyond 12 (and don’t forget it has already been increased from 6 to 12), it then has to find the funds and manpower to both convert ‘x’ number of prewired airframes from Super Hornet to Growler, procure the necessary extra NGJ pods, it has to have extra air and ground crews, etc, etc, etc, and hopefully not have to give up something too.

    As I said, not wanting to be a wet blanket, but it’s just not as easy as saying “well we have these 12 pre-wired Super Hornet airframes, lets just upgrade them, man them and put them into service”.

    As I keep saying, at the very least, I’d like to see them kept as an attrition reserve, where we go from beyond that, who knows!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  23. says

    John N, I love your long essays. I’m sure the RAAF have things covered. Well done Corey because I believe they should spend more as well. Cheers.

  24. Harry says

    John N – yes I understand all that you’ve argued. And I might debate the same points but really don’t want to write as much as you have lol. Though I appreciate it. No one debates these things here but I believe a lot of commentators here realise these trade-offs – where all tax payers after all. (I also said I agreed w/ you previously and that I wasn’t advocating a position but merely detailing the possibilities and benefits of having a mixed fleet). A recent ASPI article (sometime 2017) covered much of what you’ve detailed/explored. The article stated that any delays in F-35 delivery or a strategic delay in 4th F-35 squadron could see potential greater use of the Rhinos and Growlers, and that is a sensible fallback option that likely won’t be necessary.

    I would say thats all said and good, but also note my earlier points. Therein, it really does come down to cost-benefit analysis and creating efficiencies and leveraging off monies already invested in these programs that gets the best bang for buck while providing a capability AND capacity. That makes it seriously, seriously worth considering in my humble opinion. In the end either way RAAFs doing pretty well and I am not worried about the direction their heading in at the moment.

  25. John N says

    Paul,

    There is little doubt that the RAAF would have made up their minds to go with the 4th operational Sqn of F-35A. The question will come down to what ‘flavour’ of Government we have at the time the question is asked for them to allow that purchase to happen.

    If it’s an LNP Government, I’d certainly bet money on it happening and pretty much the same if its a ‘right side’ of the ALP too.

    The worry is if we end up with a ‘left side’ of the ALP type Government, eg, a Gillard type Government that has historically taken funds away from Defence for their ‘social’ agenda. Time will tell!!

    Harry,

    What sort of delays??

  26. says

    John N, as I said it will happen even if Peter Garrett was PM!! And to say there might be delays, there could be or not. But I’m pretty sure if there are, it won’t be that much, Cheers.

  27. Philip says

    ​Thanks John N: These boards allow us to promote discourse overlaid with rational opinion, so I do not consider your input as being a wet blanket.

    It is clear that there are a number of scenarios that could play out into the 2020’s – which is now the enthusiastic subject of speculation and interest – whether it be maintaining the Rhinos or taking on a new squadron of F35’s at the Rhino’s expense.

    With reference to the topic of this discussion board, my interest extends to also considering the expansion of the Growler squadron with its new ALQ-249 Next Generation Jammer capability as its integration with the broader ADF expands. (As my SO’s eyes glaze over if I discuss this, I trust you can indulge this scenario – even at the expense of a few F35s, maybe.)

    Standing back, perhaps the greatest bonus for the RAAF are the number of real options that are possible (budget permitting) for its fast jet program and fleet enhancement now and into the early 2020’s. Wiser heads than ours have this under control, I’m sure.

    At least the RAAF’s fast jet’s future appears bright – unlike the RCAF currently …

  28. Harry says

    JohnN – administrative, it depends when we sign for that 4th squadron and there is any number of reasons why it might happen as scheduled or later than

  29. says

    As I have said before, I still think it is wise to keep the Rhinos up to at least 2030! If we upgrade them to blk111 standard , and I’m sure there will be more upgrades after that, I see that as a flexible robust and potent force. Throw in the 72 F-35s and Growlers on top of that, and let alone our C-17s, tankers , wedgetailers Poseidons, and Tritons. That is an enormous potent hitting machine that would be the envy of nearly any country. Once the Rhino exhausts its airframe life , then purchase the last batch of 35s. Have I got everyone’s vote😀👍👌