The Growlers have arrived — not Australia’s though

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 5, 2012
Three US Navy EA-18G Growlers are taking part in joint exercises at RAAF Base Amberley. (Dept of Defence)

Three Boeing EA-18G Growlers belonging to the US Navy touched down at RAAF Amberly this week for a three week joint exercise focusing on airborne electronic attack integration. RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets are taking part in the exercises alongside the Growlers, an electronic warfare variant of the Super Hornet.

Australia announced plans in August to move ahead with Growler conversions on 12 of the RAAF’s 24 Super Hornets. The first of the RAAF’s Growlers aren’t expected to be available for operations until 2018.

The visiting American EA-18Gs, part of the Navy’s Washington state-based Electronic Attack Squadron 132, are serving a six month deployment at Naval Air Facility Misawa in Japan in support of the US 7th Fleet.

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28 Comments

  • Peter

    says:

    It’s a bad idea deciding to pre-wire 12 oout of 24 F/A-18Fs for the ability to be set up as an ECM jet and it is still a bad idea now. $1.5 Billion sunk down the toilet, a total waste.

    Why is the EA-18G a waste?

    As mentioned before in the article Go for RAAF Growlers? Thursday March 29 2012. Because the Growler is obsolete against the changed threat environment. Going ahead and pre-wiring 12 of the Super Dogs into the Growler/Grizzly jammer configuration comes with a big problem; the legacy ALQ-99 jamming kit is obsolete and the U.S. Navy knew it when they fielded the aircraft.

    Not only cannot the EA-18G keep up with a strike package, but it isn’t designed to survive combat against today’s 2012 benchmark threats of Su-30s / S-300s. So what about tomorrow’s threats like the Su-35S Super Flanker-E /
    S-400 and the T-50 PAK-FA / S-500 in the near to mid term?

    But what about the “next-generation jammer?”

    What about it? The program may show up. However in these tight budget times and the U.S. Navy getting bled white by outrageously expensive defense projects, I wouldn’t count on it.

    If Defence goes through with this sham, it will be another monument to their incompetence.

  • Peter

    says:

    Did the guy in the hobby shop tell you this Peter?

  • Dane

    says:

    Here we go again. Just leave it alone mate. This horse has been flogged to death over and over. I’m not saying you don’t make a valid point, but come on.

  • Peter

    says:

    “Here we go again. Just leave it alone mate. This horse has been flogged to death over and over. I’m not saying you don’t make a valid point, but come on”.

    This aircraft is not going to survive in a changed threat environment Dane. It’s not going to perform as aspected mate. It’s a turkey.

  • Sam

    says:

    @Peter Everyone is well aware of your position regarding the SH/Growler as well as the JSF. Do you really feel it necessary to write an essay response for every relevant news story? Provide some constructive discussion

  • DB

    says:

    At least we will begin to get some experience and develop skills with the operation of an EW/ECM platform in a strike/escort scenario. Also we are unlikely to being going ‘downtown’ against S-300s any time soon. The idea is to lobe skirt and to break lock where necessary and for that they are still a significantly capable platform. We are buying F-35s to go into high threat environments. The Growler is for post IADS operations and that should be obvious to anyone.

  • Peter

    says:

    Hi guys.

    Did you folks know that the defence standing in region is eroding?

    Because 65-year-run as ”top gun” in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific is in danger of coming to an end. The high-tech defence capabilities are at risk of being eclipsed by military modernisation programs by the adversary countries.

    China, which is developing its own fifth generation rival the Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon and J-21/J-31? aircraft to America’s top-of-the-line air superiority stealth fighter, the F-22, already has hundreds of fourth generation fighters in its inventory.

    These include Sukhoi Su-30MKs and Su-27SKs/UBKs from Russia and indigenous fighters and multi-role attack aircraft such as the Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon and the FC-1.

    Indonesia signed a contract to acquire state-of-the-art Su-30MK2s from the Russia last December.

    It already flies 30 older configuration Su-30MKs along with 27 high-performance Su-27SKMs and 10 US-built F-16A/Bs. The US has given Indonesia another 24 F-16C/D Block 32s for delivery soon.

    India recently placed an order for 126 Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters and also produces several effective fighters of local design and manufacture. It has 146 Su-30MKIs in service with another 126 are on the way.

    Pakistan also fields older F-16A/Bs and advanced F-16C/D models, as well as ex-RAAF Mirage IIIO / IIID / 5 aircraft. It has 36 copies of China’s high-performance J-10 multi-role fighter on order with deliveries due to begin in 2014.

    Instead, air superiority is the most important asset that should be focused on for the adversary nations that are flexing their muscles, not battlefield interdictor / close air support which is not designed to sweep the fighter aircraft away.

    Not only that the defence standing in region is eroding with defence cut,. it’s also because we are buying and building the wrong aircraft such as the F-35 JSF that is not suited for the requirements. The aircraft is not designed as a high altitude air superiority fighter/interceptor in mind. The F-35 was defined during the mid-1990s to have “affordable” aerodynamic performance, stealth performance, sensor capabilities and weapons loads to be “affordably” effective against the most common threat systems of that era past – legacy Soviet Cold War era weapons, not for the 21st Century high emerging threat environments. The F-35 is designed primarily to support ground forces on the battlefield with some self defence capabilities and is not suitable for the developing regional environment. The aircraft is unsuited for bomber and cruise missile defence as mentioned before due to limited range / endurance, limited weapons load, limited supersonic speed and indeed limited manoeuvrability. Again as its limitations are inherent to the design, they cannot be altered by incremental upgrades. The F-35 will be ineffective against the current generation of extremely powerful advanced Russian and Chinese systems, as detailed above; In any combat engagements between the F-35 and such threat systems, most or all F-35 aircraft will be rapidly lost to enemy fire.

    The F-35 JSF is a boondoggle, nothing but a turkey of the program.

    @ Sam

    Yes I know that everyone is well aware of my position regarding the SH/Growler as well as the JSF. I really do feel it’s necessary to write an essay response to the Government & the RAAF. Although if they agree or disagree my response of concerns about the SH/Growler and upcoming JSF, well I reckon it’s time they really must wake up to the facts of listening and taking ideas of other critics that are opponents to the SH/Growler and JSF explaining their valid reasons of why these aircraft are not up to the job and can’t survive against the advanced Russian/Chinese fighters, SAMs, AAAs and counter stealth radars that are and will soon proliferating the region?

    However, the DoD / the RAAF has failed to address the Su-27/30/33/35 Flanker family, PAK-FA, Su-34 Fullback, MiG-29/35 Fulcrum family, Tu-22M3 Backfire-C, J-10, J-20, J-21/J-31? and its future derivatives in any strategic planning and the defence is even considering the strategically obsolete F-35 & F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to compete with these aircraft, given that both the F-35 / F/A-18E/F are absolutely inferior to them.

    The DoD / the RAAF not introduced “counter-stealth” capabilities in any strategic planning, and even not considered the impact of counter-stealth sensors in any strategic planning.

    Certainly the DoD / the RAAF not introduced long range air-air missile capabilities in any strategic planning.

    From my point of view, as well as my friends of mine, colleagues and acquaintances which they have a point of view in the defence industry claiming “The Government / the RAAF is eroding the air power out of shame on purpose of ruining and wasting billions of dollars down the toilet of participating and buying the lemon F-35 Just So Failed, Ageing 71 F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet fleet likely to stay longer and purchased 24 F/A-18Fs for BACC and pre-wiring 12 out of 24 F/A-18Fs into the EA-18G Growler standards that are not up to the job. And the F-111s should not have been retired at the first place”.

    Unfortunately, it’s too late to bring the remaining F-111s back from dump area in Swanbank.

    I also really do feel it’s necessary to write an essay response to the Government & the RAAF about considering alternatives such as the Australian specialized F-15E+ development program… the F-15AU for the Classic Hornet replacement. The new built “F-15AU” on licence from Boeing, can provide a massive amount of capability and should incorporate new upgrades for the advanced Eagles such as:

    1. APG-82 AESA fire control radar.

    2. 2D or 3D thrust vectoring supercruising F100-PW-232 or F110-GE-132 engines as a consideration.

    3. DEWS (Digital Electronic Warfare System) or defensible EWSP jammers.

    4. NG (Next Generation) 3-D touch screen cockpit display.

    5. Digital fly-by-wire flight control system.

    6. IRST sensor pod (either located next to the windshield or below the port air intake) and CFB (Conformal Weapons Bays) etc.

    The Government / the RAAF have to very very seriously think about what they’ve done really wrong on their very irresponsible shameful mistakes they doing and done previously. Unfortunately I give them bad credit they’ve done to this country.

    Regards Peter
    .

  • Air Observer

    says:

    I believe the RAF’s interest in the Growler stemmed from its performance in Libya. If China wanted to screw us up they could simply stop the container ships heading this way. If these aircraft are such duds why are the US buying them? Politics?

  • Air Observer

    says:

    …and I bet the F35 proves to be an incredible aircraft, despite its legions of critics.

  • Sam

    says:

    @Peter you obviously feel very strongly about this, if you feel the need to “respond” to the government, maybe it’s time to write a submission to them rather than posting your views in response to news stories on AA.

    On topic: does anybody know the specific purpose of these training exercises with the US growlers? My first guess would be so our forces can learn some of the tactics involved with operating an EW asset.. can anyone confirm?

  • BH

    says:

    @ Sam.. your guess seems to make sense given we’ve just announced our intention to go ahead with the growler buy… It just seems a bit early to start when we’re not expecting to capability for 5 to 6 yrs… I just can’t believe its going to take that long…
    I’m curious that with our defence funding cuts why the govt didn’t decide to just go with growler lite at least until the new jammers are available (same timeframe either way)… Then again that’s if we’ll get access to them…

  • PHS

    says:

    Peter,
    You are full of quite relevant information, but your argument becomes irrelevant once you bring in your irrational favour for the F111. Believe me, as someone who operated with F111s for quite a few years, they had their time in the sun, but they were overdue for retirement well before they were actually retired. The airframe (and role) was built for a different era. Move on – and don’t can the Hornet/Rhino/Growler just because it replaced and improved on the F111s overall capability.

  • Air Observer

    says:

    The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate how the Growler compliments the Rhino/Classic mission, as well as providing ‘observer’ time to the future operators. The pods will be refurbished but will also incorporate a few fixes on the original configuration. I bet some of the tactics developed by the ‘scorpions’ will leave the RAAF hungry for more.

  • Peter

    says:

    Hi PHS

    “Believe me, as someone who operated with F111s for quite a few years, they had their time in the sun, but they were overdue for retirement well before they were actually retired. The airframe (and role) was built for a different era. Move on – and don’t can the Hornet/Rhino/Growler just because it replaced and improved on the F111s overall capability”.

    I reckon the Government/RAAF’s argument becomes irrelevant once they bring in their irrational favour for participating and purchasing the failure F-35 program, ageing Classic Hornet fleet to stay viable beyond 2020, F/A-18Fs for BACC and pre-wiring 12 out of 24 F/A-18Fs into the EA-18G standards that are extremely incapable.

    My argument becomes relevant when I brought up the rational favour for the F-111. From what I’ve found out before, their was a upgrade proposal issued in 2001 to upgrade the F-111s with glass cockpit, modern weaponry, AESA radar, modern sensors etc and the aircraft was made as a “depot refurbishment”, just like the Yanks are doing to the F-15 fleet for e.g. The defence has lied about the F-111 which the it should have been kept upgraded with some 5th Generation systems etc to extend their service live until the 2020s or 2030. Just because the Hornet/Super Hornet/Growler and soon the lemon JSF comes in, I’ll continue to can about them. Believe me, the F-111 is a robust, extremely capable and very fast strike aircraft which carries typically twice or more the internal fuel of other jets, as a result of which it typically delivers twice the combat radius than small fighters with short range, usually with twice the payload of weapons. Therefore the F-111 provides over 50% of punch in a single aircraft, with only a two person crew. Unfortunately, no tactical fighter built since the F-111 can match its range, weapon payload and sensors which makes the F-111 extremely difficult to properly replace, it’s almost equivalent in size being the MiG-31 Foxhound.

    Stating that the F-111 can’t be upgraded to this capability, it just shows gross ignorance and retired from service is based on a excuse, laziness and a lie by the dysfunctional defence senior leadership.

    The F/A-18 and the F-16 were designed as part of a lightweight fighter design. The goal was to build up affordable fighter aircraft in-numbers to face the Soviet threat.

    The F-16 and F/A-18 are not “depot refurbishment” like the F-111, F-15 or any large fighter with high capability. In other words, the F-15 was designed to fly x amount of hours and then go into deep maintenance every 5-7 years, then put back into the field. One of my colleagues has seen the F-15 depot process first hand.

    The F-16 and F/A-18 for instance were meant to be flown x amount of hours and then thrown into the trash. Of the two, the F-16 is easier to extend life on. Wing flex, forward bulkhead corrosion and various fittings have to be replaced.

    Refurbishing our A/B model Hornets to make them viable beyond 2020 is a fool’s errand. But try telling these people such a thing. Unfortunately PHS we are moving on with very incapable platforms as you read about defence standing in region is eroding.

    @ Sam

    I actually sent an email to Defence Minister Stephen Smith in the past about my grave concerns of the F-35, Classic Horne and Super Hornet that are not capable of doing the job to fulfill the requirements.

  • Peter

    says:

    @ Air Observer

    When will the pods be refurbished? Because as mentioned above about the next-generation jammer program may show up. But the U.S. Navy is getting bled white by outrageously expensive defence projects with tight budget.

  • Sam

    says:

    @Air Observer: Thanks for confirming that mate, BH mirrored my thoughts when he said he thought it mightve been a bit early to start tactical training this early on. I’m a bit sketchy on this, but is the JSF planned to have the same EW capability as the growler? I remember reading somewhere that it gets EW capability in its block 5 upgrades but it still won’t be as effective as what the growler offers… I’m assuming that would change if the NGJ was modified for the F-35 though.

  • pez

    says:

    So, Peter, you’ve flown and operated the F-35 in a complex war environment have you? That’s how you know it’s a ‘turkey’? Armchair “admiral” at it’s best/worst…

  • Air Observer

    says:

    Two years is achievable. The ALQ99s will come from USN slots and the other pods and tech will all be new build. The NG Jammer will be a long time off (maybe never if congress swings the axe) so this was a good decision. The EA mission opens up alot of options.

  • Air Observer

    says:

    As for the F35? The pilots who aren’t flying it talk to the ones who have and invariably join the cue at Eglin AFB. Enough said.

  • Air Observer

    says:

    @sam
    The F35 will not be EA ready for 10-15 at present. the Growler/Lightning combi is bedding in (on paper!) as a likely package and in all liklihood the later f35s will gain a more comprehensive new package rather than the NG.

  • Degradable

    says:

    Peter…
    You are wrong !

  • Doug

    says:

    The EA-18G has shot down F-22s … it can handle anything the Chinese or Russians can throw up against it.

  • Sam

    says:

    @Doug: I’ve heard about this, do you have a link to any info describing the conditions and tactics of the kill? I’d be skeptical of it’s relevance if it was in a large DACT exercise.

    Thanks for the clarification Air Observer

  • Peter

    says:

    @ Degradable

    No, you’re wrong.

  • Peter

    says:

    @ Air Observer, Degradable, Doug and Sam

    “The EA-18G can handle anything the Chinese or Russians can throw up against it”.

    I doubt that. But what about tomorrow’s threats like the Su-35S Super Flanker-E / S-400 and the T-50 PAK-FA / S-500 in the near to mid term? as mentioned above. Read more on FlightGlobal.com about US Navy: ALQ-99 pods no match for “today’s” threat.

    The only thing that the Growler will be able to do some damage against legacy Soviet made integrated air defenses (IADS). It won’t be providing the bang for the buck the U.S. Navy wanted for future threats. Since the aircraft is an escort jammer and not a stand-off jammer, it will be at some serious risk if it gets too close to modern IADS.

    The poor reliability of the ALQ-99 and frequent failures of the Built In self Test (BIT) have caused crew to fly missions with real faults; the ALQ-99 also interferes with the aircraft’s APG-79 AESA radar, hanging a lot of drag which increases weight, reduces the top speed of the aircraft, and imposes a high workload on the two man crew when employed in the Growler that doesn’t do it any favours. Its a woof, woof.

    So, like the original Super Hornet introduction to the fleet, Growler will be on an upgrade spiral for some time to come. As delivered to the fleet, it will be yesterday’s jammer.

    The newer Su-30/35 Flankers for instance carry the podded wingtip mounted KNIRTI SPS-171 / L005S Sorbtsiya-S mid/high band defensive jammer, this system being an evolution of a jammer developed for the Tu-22M3 Backfire C. The Sorbtsiya-S, unlike most Western jamming pods, is designed to operate in pairs and uses forward and aft looking steerable wideband phased arrays to maximise jamming effect. It is worth observing that the Sorbtsiya is clearly built to provide cross-eye jamming modes against monopulse threats, and the wideband mainlobe steering capability provided by the phased array permits best possible utilisation of available jamming power. A graded dielectric lens is employed. Russian contractors have been using Digital RF Memory (DRFM) technology, which is of the same generation as Super Hornet EWSP. The Super Hornet does not have any compelling advantage in EWSP capability.

  • Peter

    says:

    So guys do your research of why the Classic Hornet/Super Hornet/Growler/F-35 will be obsolete before jumping into conclusions.

  • Peter's hobbyshop

    says:

    @ Peter – I doubt our sources could match the guy in the hobby shop. I wonder if that’s where APA gets their material too?

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