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RAAF to replace Growler that caught fire in $170m deal

written by Adam Thorn | October 8, 2021
The damaged RAAF Growler. (Barry Ambrose)

Australia will finally be able to replace the EA-18G Growler that caught fire in 2018 after the US gave the green light to Boeing to sell a replacement to the RAAF for $170 million.

The deal includes engineering and modification, maintenance and storage as well as technical assistance from the US government.

The aircraft was damaged beyond repair while taking off over the Nellis Test and Training Range in Nevada in preparation for the start of Exercise Red Flag 18-1.

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“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” said a statement from the US State Department.

“Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region.

“It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defence capability.”

Engine component failure was identified as the most likely cause of the catastrophic engine failure and subsequent fire on board the RAAF EA-18G Growler at Nellis Air Force Base on 29 January  2019.

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The aircraft was taking off when, as it approached rotation speed, it suffered what Defence has described as a “malfunction”, with the crew forced to conduct a high-speed abort.

The two crew stayed with the aircraft until it came to rest off the side of Nellis’ eastern runway and were able to climb out of the jet and get clear of the rapidly growing fire.

As a result of the right-hand side engine’s failure, the RAAF placed an operational pause on all F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler flying on 30 January. Both aircraft types, operated by 82 Wing, are powered by GE F414 engines.

The RAAF currently has a fleet of 11 of the airborne electronic attack aircraft, which can fly over enemy bases and jam defences.

The Growler is a variant of the Super Hornet, but it differs in several key areas. In place of the nose-mounted gun, it carries two ALQ-218 tactical jamming receivers (TJR) pods on its wingtips and up to five ALQ-99 jammers on centre-line and wing stations.

This technology allows it to both shut down enemy defences if it senses they’re tracking it or proactively jam them anyway using its radar.

It can even take out specific frequencies and comms devices only, locating their emitters.

The fleet is operated by No. 6 Squadron and based at RAAF Base Amberley. The first only arrived in 2017 and RAAF is the only air force outside of the US to own any.

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5 Comments

  • Dale

    says:

    Why is the RAAF having to buy the replacement? Why isn’t the engine manufacturer footing the bill for this one?

    • Dan

      says:

      I think that conversation has been done to death!

  • Craigy

    says:

    I have read in other publications that the replacement aircraft will come from existing USN inventory and will not be a new build.

    • Dan

      says:

      That is correct – in order to keep the ‘new’ jet as similar to the current fleet as possible, RAAF is after a jet from the same or subsequent block, with similar hours on it to our fleet.

  • Craigy

    says:

    The US has approved the sale of another 12 Romeo Seahawks to Australia.

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