RAAF first EA-18G ‘Growler’ rolled out

During a ceremony on June 29 at Boeing’s F/A-18 assembly plant in St Louis, former Chief of the Air Force Geoff Brown said the acquisition of Super Hornet ‘Growlers’ is the biggest single advance in RAAF capability since the purchase of F-111s in the 1960s.

30th Jul 2015


RAAF first EA-18G ‘Growler’ rolled out

Kym Bergmann / St Louis


During a ceremony on June 29 at Boeing’s F/A-18 assembly plant in St Louis, former Chief of the Air Force Geoff Brown said the acquisition of Super Hornet ‘Growlers’ is the biggest single advance in RAAF capability since the purchase of F-111s in the 1960s. He explained that because of the broad-spectrum Electronic Attack features of the aircraft, they constitute a major step forward in the ability of the ADF to conduct successful combat operations. He expressed the view that the Asian region is becoming potentially more dangerous to operate in, mainly because of the growth in numbers and capability of anti-aircraft missile systems.

The RAAF is acquiring 12 ‘Growlers’ at a cost of $3.7 billion to complement the existing fleet of 24 Super Hornets and 71 ‘Classic’ F/A-18s, and they will operate with the forthcoming F-35s. Australia will be the only country other than the US to operate ‘Growlers’ – and it is unlikely that there will be any other international sales of the aircraft because of the extremely sensitive nature of their electronic systems. Air Marshal Brown said Australia needed to maintain a regional edge in military technology, adding:

“The Growlers will complement our existing and future air combat capability, and we will be much more lethal with this EA protection. In many respects, it’s the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle for the RAAF.

“This is a capability we have never had before – the jamming ability to shut down hostile radars, to shut down enemy missile systems and allow us if necessary to operate in hostile airspace.

“The ‘Growler’ is such a big change from what we have had before. I always think that with military capability there are three things you really want: you want good cyber capabilities; good kinetic effect capabilities, which we have always had – and also a good electronic warfare capability. Never previously having had the ability to attack the electromagnetic spectrum in the way that this aircraft can means that not only does the air force benefit from its acquisition but so does the entire ADF.

“Capability like this will be in our inventory for 30 plus years. Unless you can guarantee air superiority you cannot do any other land or sea operations, so to have this sort of capability makes the rest of Defence function, to be honest.”

Asked how the ‘Growler’ will work with the stealthy F-35 – which comes with a formidable electronic attack capability of its own – the Air Marshal explained:

“The ‘Growler’ will support the F-35s, but it will depend on the scenario. Sometimes you won’t necessarily fly them together, but other times you will – it all depends on the mission planning. The ‘Growler’ brings a much wider spectrum of electronic attack to the equation, whereas the F-35’s EA capability is more directed against surface-to-air missiles. I don’t think the two types will always operate together because the F-35 has the ability to go into hostile airspace by itself. We are looking at the ‘Growler’ in terms of its ability to support the wider Australian Defence Force and protect all of our assets.”

At the heart of the aircraft is its ALQ-99 jamming system and while many of the exact details are classified, it has the potential to not only knock out enemy radars from long distances but also to disrupt a large range of communications, including mobile phones and most military radios. Mobiles are commonly used by irregular forces, such as insurgents and terrorists, who are unable to access advanced encrypted technologies. As operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have demonstrated, ‘Growlers’ also have the ability to block hostile radio signals used to detonate Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and so have played a vital role in protected ground troops, especially those travelling in convoys. They will also be able to protect transport aircraft travelling through hostile airspace by jamming enemy radar systems.

Chris Chadwick, Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security president and CEO said:
“Today, we celebrate enduring partnerships with the RAAF, U.S. Navy and our industry team. The U.S. Navy, RAAF and Boeing’s continued investment and innovation mean the Growler is not only the world’s premier electronic attack platform today, but will remain so for many decades to come.”
The Growler will fly to Naval Air Station China Lake, California for flight-testing and then Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington State, where RAAF operators will continue training with U.S. Navy pilots to gain expertise in the highly technical electronic warfare mission.
“Growlers are the cutting edge of electronic warfare,” said Rear Admiral Donald Gaddis, U.S. Navy Program Executive Officer for Tactical Aircraft Programs. “As the U.S. Navy and RAAF continue to train and operate together we welcome Australia’s strategic step to advance the capabilities of our joint partners for years of future success.”
RAAF personnel have been training in the United States for the past 18 months honing their EA skills and drawing off the extensive experience of the United States Navy. The 12 aircraft will be ferried to Australia during 2017.

(Kym Bergmann travelled to the U.S. as a guest of Boeing. Special thanks to Dave Sidman and his team)
RAAF first EA-18G ‘Growler’ rolled out

Kym Bergmann / St Louis


During a ceremony on June 29 at Boeing’s F/A-18 assembly plant in St Louis, former Chief of the Air Force Geoff Brown said the acquisition of Super Hornet ‘Growlers’ is the biggest single advance in RAAF capability since the purchase of F-111s in the 1960s. He explained that because of the broad spectrum Electronic Attack features of the aircraft, they will constitute a major step forward in the ability of the ADF to conduct successful combat operations. He expressed the view that the Asian region is becoming potentially more dangerous to operate in mainly because of the growth in numbers and capability of anti-aircraft missile systems.

The RAAF is acquiring 12 ‘Growlers’ at a cost of $3.7 billion to complement the existing fleet of 24 Super Hornets and 71 ‘Classic’ F/A-18s, and they will operate with the forthcoming F-35s. Australia will be the only country other than the US to operate ‘Growlers’ – and it is unlikely that there will be any other international sales of the aircraft because of the extremely sensitive nature of their electronic systems. Air Marshal Brown said Australia needed to maintain a regional edge in military technology, adding:

“The Growlers will complement our existing and future air combat capability, and we will be much more lethal with this EA protection. In many respects, it’s the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle for the RAAF.

“This is a capability we have never had before – the jamming ability to shut down hostile radars, to shut down enemy missile systems and allow us if necessary to operate in hostile airspace.

“The ‘Growler’ is such a big change from what we have had before. I always think that with military capability there are three things you really want: you want good cyber capabilities; good kinetic effect capabilities, which we have always had – and also a good electronic warfare capability. Never previously having had the ability to attack the electromagnetic spectrum in the way that this aircraft can means that not only does the air force benefit from its acquisition but so does the entire ADF.

“Capability like this will be in our inventory for 30 plus years. Unless you can guarantee air superiority you cannot do any other land or sea operations, so to have this sort of capability makes the rest of Defence function, to be honest.”

Asked how the ‘Growler’ will work with the stealthy F-35 – which comes with a formidable electronic attack capability of its own – the Air Marshal explained:

“The ‘Growler’ will support the F-35s, but it will depend on the scenario. Sometimes you won’t necessarily fly them together, but other times you will – it all depends on the mission planning. The ‘Growler’ brings a much wider spectrum of electronic attack to the equation, whereas the F-35’s EA capability is more directed against surface-to-air missiles. I don’t think the two types will always operate together because the F-35 has the ability to go into hostile airspace by itself. We are looking at the ‘Growler’ in terms of its ability to support the wider Australian Defence Force and protect all of our assets.”

At the heart of the aircraft is its ALQ-99 jamming system and while many of the exact details are classified, it has the potential to not only knock out enemy radars from long distances but also to disrupt a large range of communications, including mobile phones and most military radios. Mobiles are commonly used by irregular forces such as insurgents and terrorists, who are unable to access advanced encrypted technologies. As operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have demonstrated, ‘Growlers’ also have the ability to block hostile radio signals used to detonate Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and so have been playing a vital role in protected ground troops, especially those travelling in convoys. They will also be able to protect transport aircraft travelling through hostile airspace by jamming enemy radar systems.

Chris Chadwick, Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security president and CEO said:
“Today, we celebrate enduring partnerships with the RAAF, U.S. Navy and our industry team. The U.S. Navy, RAAF and Boeing’s continued investment and innovation mean the Growler is not only the world’s premier electronic attack platform today, but will remain so for many decades to come.”
The Growler will fly to Naval Air Station China Lake, California for flight testing and then Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington State, where RAAF operators will continue training with U.S. Navy pilots to gain expertise in the highly technical electronic warfare mission.
“Growlers are the cutting edge of electronic warfare,” said Rear Admiral Donald Gaddis, U.S. Navy Program Executive Officer for Tactical Aircraft Programs. “As the U.S. Navy and RAAF continue to train and operate together we welcome Australia’s strategic step to advance the capabilities of our joint partners for years of future success.”
RAAF personnel have been training in the United States for the past 18 months honing their EA skills and drawing off the extensive experience of the United States Navy. The 12 aircraft will be ferried to Australia during 2017.

(Kym Bergmann travelled to the U.S. as a guest of Boeing. Special thanks to Dave Sidman and his team)
 

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