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New image shows extent of fire damage to RAAF Growler

written by australianaviation.com.au | January 29, 2018
A file image of the damaged RAAF Growler. (Barry Ambrose)
The damaged RAAF Growler. (Barry Ambrose)

A new image obtained by Australian Aviation shows the extent of the damage sustained by a RAAF EA-18G Growler which had to abort its takeoff from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada on Saturday after an apparent engine failure.

The image shows the rear of the jet to be blackened from fire, suggesting extensive damage to the airframe and the aircraft’s electronic warfare systems, including its underwing ALQ-99 jamming pods.

The Growler’s crew, comprising a pilot and an electronic warfare officer, were able to exit the jet on the ground without serious injury after the incident. The aircraft was one of four EA-18Gs the RAAF had sent to Nellis to participate in Exercise Red Flag 18-1.

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The aircraft is one of 12 EA-18G Growlers in Australian service, 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.

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26 Comments

  • Josh James

    says:

    Ouch! It’s a miracle it wasn’t worse than it is.

  • John N

    says:

    Well that pretty well confirms that the airframe should be a write-off.
    The images would appear to suggest that it was the right hand engine failing that was the major cause of the fire damage.
    The earlier images from the left side showed the airframe was in one piece but blackened from the fire, the new photo from the right side appears to show far more substantial damage, it appears to have ‘melted’. And I would image that the internal damage is even more significant too, if the airframe has been ‘warped’ by the heat, as it probably has, then that’s probably the end of flying for that one.
    Hopefully they can at least salvage any useful components and systems to go into the spares pool for the remainder of the fleet.
    Anyway, main thing is the aircrew is safe, time to speak to our friends in the USN and look for an attrition replacement of a similar age, or ask Boeing to provide a new Growler replacement.
    Cheers,
    John N

  • Harry

    says:

    I read in one of the paper’s today saying they are $300 mil a piece!? But that can’t be right, right? I know wiki isn’t the best source but it has them at $70 mil per copy…

  • Trev

    says:

    The $300 million is the total cost over its lifetime not just the drive away cost from the dealership.

  • Tim

    says:

    Don’t suppose they come with manufacturers warranty?

  • Alpha141

    says:

    It looks melted. I thought so initially also. But, the guys in white are putting a plastic type cover over the vertical right tail to protect it. The top of this tail can still be seen in the first pic just a bit blackened. The other horizontal tail on the same side in the top pic also. Doesn’t mean light damage…but also not as bad as it seems also visually with those pics. Unfortunate but there could be much worse locations for this to occur, A lot of support in the region for this specialised tech.

  • Darryl Purdom

    says:

    The plastic covering is standard HAZMAT practice for any damage to Carbon Fibre structures, they are not protecting the aircraft, but the people that need to work aroung the aircraft.. Fire doesn’t look extensive, just lots of soot, for example they are towing it not lifting it, the tyres either survived a fire or were replaced, don’t see a trolly under the aircraft for moving it

  • SeeSure

    says:

    I could have filled a nice size pool with that $80m (US) and had the swim of my life. These guys just burn it up like there is no tomorrow, oh well, I hope we just call it a loss and don’t try and replace it. 😉

  • Philip

    says:

    Glad the crew is safe and that they are proven to have peformed a textbook emergency response to the engine fire. I also hope the RAAF can salvage the majority of the plane’s assets.
    On a lighter side: that growler could now be mistaken for a griller

  • Rob

    says:

    Surely THE most important question now is a two-part one – Why and How? Could have a wider impact, that plane was basically brand new….not good!

  • Tomcat Terry

    says:

    @Phillip
    Ha ha ha awesome call…. Griller!
    Good to see they all got out ok.
    @ Rob
    Wouldn’t expect to see investigation findings pointing to the Growler type as cause, what you don’t see in the media is the common engine fires that happen on military aircraft. Just so happened to be an Aussie plane on international exercises and a Growler.
    RAAF will pick up a spare airframe from the US in the future most probably.

  • OMG

    says:

    Big day for the base fire team.

  • Murray

    says:

    Top picture looks like it was taken after the bottom picture. I would hazard a guess that the v. stab isn’t crinkled/warped – what we’re seeing is just the coverings.

  • Mark

    says:

    It’ll buff out, right?

  • Richard James

    says:

    The Banks are making money out nothing, so ought not be a big problem, For Parliament to order a Replacement
    They get rebuild once a year, so maybe this growler overhaul has come a little early

  • Rodger

    says:

    Didn’t We get all the initial Super Hornets to replace the F111’s wired up to be Growlers .Maybedown The tract they use one of those and buy an extra F35 instead. But as it’s a new jet and if a faults found wouldn’t Boeing replace it ?

  • Paul

    says:

    Rodger, I think Boeing have copied Mazdas 5 year unlimited km warranty model! Let’s hope so?

  • Scott

    says:

    With the latest military industry buildup push from the Government maybe replace it with a EW Nomad.

  • MikeofPerth

    says:

    I wonder if this incident will delay the planned IOC for the Growler fleet this year?

  • Mick C

    says:

    Rodger thr 2nd.12 where pre wired for possible conversion so that would be a possible choice

  • Allan

    says:

    As Boeing is wanting to keep the production line open and the U S Navy is actively seeking to get more Growlers, Maybe one can be sourced off the current production run as a replacement, Once the cause has been identified. Such a shame when these incidents happen. Luckily the crew got out and is ok.

  • B. Harrison

    says:

    Darryl Purdom is quite correct. These aircraft are predominantly made out of carbon fibre which is extremely hazardous when burnt and if the smoke and or fumes are inhaled is a death sentence. When burnt, carbon fibre is extremely sooty and while the damage is predominantly around the engine and tail, hopefully that is where it ends. The aircraft might be salvageable, but depending what fire, smoke, heat and firefighting foam impact has had on the aircraft will determine it’s future. I know one thing, if I purchased a brand new vehicle and that happened to it, I wouldn’t want a repair, I would want a replacement and the manufacturer can have the damaged goods back.

  • PAUL

    says:

    Wonder how liable Boeing is when the engines are supplied by General Electric- pretty rare for such reliable engines..

  • John C

    says:

    4 options;
    write off, reduce to components and not replace (cheapest)
    new replacement (most expensive)
    repair
    write off, reduce to components and convert one of the F/A18F fleet to EA18G
    Whichever option is taken will be the result of much deliberation after assessment of the damage.
    If it does get repaired, don’t expect to see it fly any time soon.

  • Tim Cheney

    says:

    Where is the airframe currntly.
    is it in a hanger at Nellis , back at Boeing/Northrop-Gumman or the local dump.

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