RAAF Growler catches fire after takeoff incident during Exercise Red Flag

An RAAF 6SQN Growler on the Nellis AFB flight line after arriving last week. (Defence)

An apparent engine failure has seen an RAAF EA-18G Growler catch fire after an aborted takeoff from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada on Saturday morning US time.

“Defence can confirm an incident involving an EA-18G Growler at Nellis Air Force Base during Exercise Red Flag. Royal Australian Air Force personnel are safe and no serious injuries have been sustained,” a Department of Defence statement released shortly before midday on Sunday (Australian time) confirmed.

“Defence is currently working with the United States Air Force to investigate and will provide an update with further details once known.”

The Growler’s crew, comprising a pilot and an electronic warfare officer, were able to exit the jet on the ground without ejecting.

Images circulating on social media show the jet intact but evidently substantially damaged by fire. As investigations continue it can be expected that the aircraft’s condition will be assessed to see if it can be repaired or written off.

An earlier statement from the Nellis Air Force Base public affairs unit provided a little further detail.

“At approximately 10:45am [05.45 AEDT Sunday] this morning, a military aircraft experienced an incident during takeoff on the Nellis Air Force Base flight line,” the January 27 dated statement says.

“The aircraft was required to abort its takeoff and subsequently caught fire. However all personnel are safe. Emergency services are on scene. No serious injuries are reported.”

The aircraft was one of four RAAF Growlers from 6SQN as well an E-7A Wedgetail and an AP-3C Orion to have deployed to Nellis to participate in Exercise Red Flag 18-1, which officially began on Friday.

Red Flag 18-1 is due to focus on high-intensity warfighting and Australia is just one of two US allies, alongside the UK, to participate in the exercise.

Australia has taken delivery of 12 EA-18G Growlers, with the RAAF the only operator outside the US Navy to have the advanced electronic warfare platform in service. The first aircraft were accepted into RAAF service in 2016 and all 12 jets were delivered to RAAF Base Amberley in mid-2017.

This is the RAAF Growler’s first Red Flag appearance.

Four RAAF Growlers deployed to Nellis for Red Flag 18-1. (Defence)

“It’s the largest Red Flag ever with the largest number of participants, highlighting the balance of training efficiency with mission effectiveness,” Col Michael Mathes, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander, said of Red Flag 18-1 in an earlier statement.

“It’s the largest Red Flag ever with the largest number of participants, highlighting the balance of training efficiency with mission effectiveness.”

This story will be updated as more information is released.

Comments

  1. Kurt Eskildsen says

    I got to know quite a few of the men and women of this squadron while they were being trained at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. I always enjoyed talking with these folks when I was fueling their aircraft.

  2. John N says

    Exactly, airframes can be replaced, not so easy to replace the crew (and not desirable either too!).

    The airframe appears to still be in one piece and blackened from the fire (externally), internally the damage could potentially be significant, and could potentially be a write-off too.

    If the Government want’s to ensure a full fleet of 12 Growlers, it could possibly seek an attrition replacement from the USN (maybe an airframe built around the same time), or order an additional airframe from Boeing.

    Anyway, way too early to tell what the outcome will be.

    I would also imagine that whilst an investigation is taking place, and until a cause is known, that’s probably the end of the RAAF’s Growler fleets participation in this Red Flag exercise, better to be safe than sorry and ground the other airframes for safety reasons.

    And there could be wider ramifications too, potentially a temporary grounding of both the RAAFs and USNs Super and Growler fleets too.

    Just have to wait and see.

  3. Harry says

    Sad news, glad the crew are fine, lucky it happened on the tarmac and not in the air – hopefully the aircraft can be repaired/replaced after identifying the cause

  4. Stephen says

    Wonder what warranty the RAAF gets for the 120 million price tag, plus the 15 million per plane per year technical assistance and training

  5. Myles Dobinson says

    Don’t forget the 12 F18F’s wired for Growler upgrade that could be up-specked to replace this one.