“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.
RAAF Growler apparently experienced a critical engine failure during takeoff at Nellis AFB, before skidding off the runway. Pilot and ground crew are safe. pic.twitter.com/xlqS0r0eFE
— Elana McIntyre (@elanalmcintyre) January 28, 2018
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.
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) January 28, 2018
“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.
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.
“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.