Australia Looks Set to Replenish it’s Growler Fleet with US Approval for Replacement Aircraft

The United States Department of State today approved the possible sale of a single E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft to Australia. If the sale is confirmed the aircraft will replenish Australia’s Growler fleet after an aircraft was lost in early 2018 due to an engine fire.  

The possible sale, worth $125 million ($172 million Australian Dollars), involves the transfer and modification of a single United States Navy (USN) E/A-18G Growler to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Australia received all of its original E/A-18Gs in July 2017 and achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in April 2019.

A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A Multi-role Tanker Transport from RAAF Base Amberley provided refuelling operations for U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers in addition to RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets and E/A-18G Growlers during Exercise Lightning Focus. The B-1B Lancers’ participation in this exercise was part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation program, which aims to increase the interoperability between Australia and the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Farrah Kaufmann)

Australia initially acquired 12 aircraft, however, while on deployment to Nellis Air Force Base in the U.S to participate in Exercise Red Flag 18-1 one Growler (A46-311) was destroyed. An RAAF investigation later confirmed that an engine compressor within the aircraft’s F414 engine had failed, causing the aircraft to catch on fire, damaging it beyond repair.   

A Royal Australian Air Force EA-18G Growler aircraft from No. 6 Squadron, taxis along the runway at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, United States. (Commonwealth of Australia)

At the time, Defence officials told the ABC that they would enquire with the US about compensation for the aircraft. In 2019, however, Defence confirmed that compensation would not be forthcoming from the aircraft manufacturer Boeing over the loss. 

The notification of the potential sale comes as Australia expands its military buildup. Last month it announced plans to procure nuclear-powered submarines, Tomahawk Block V cruise missiles and JASSM-ER air-launched land-attack cruise missiles.

Header Image Courtesy Commonwealth of Australia