Thursday, May 24, 2012

DSCA Notification for sale of EA-18G Growler Modification Kits - Australia

The United States' Defense Security and Cooperation Agency has notified Congress of a possible sale of modification kits to convert 12 of Australia's Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets into EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack Aircraft [PDF document]. Australia has indicated an interest in doing so for some time, having wired up 12 of its aircraft for such a conversion even as the aircraft were being built by Boeing, and with Australia having purchased long-lead items for such a conversion some months back.

According to the DSCA release, the total value of the conversion package is estimated to be US$1.7 billion, and among other things, includes 34 AN/ALQ-99F(V) Tactical Jamming System Pods, 22 CN-1717/A Interference Cancellation Systems (INCANS), 22 R-2674(C)/A Joint Tactical Terminal Receiver (JTTR) Systems and 30 LAU-118 Guided Missile Launchers (for the AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile or HARM). It is unclear at this stage when the conversion of the Super Hornets is planned to start and conclude.

While the DSCA stresses that the notification is required by (U.S) law and "does not mean the sale has been concluded", such notifications are usually published when negotiations are at an advanced stage and the sale is about to be finalised, so we're pretty sure this sale is a given, once the i's have been dotted and the t's are crossed. Australia currently operates 24 two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornets with Nos 1 and 6 Sqns, based at RAAF Amberley southwest of Brisbane, in the state of Queensland. The Super Hornets replaced the last of the RAAF's RF/F-111Cs Aardvarks, which retired in late 2010.

A point to note: Once Australia gets it's 12 Growlers, it will effectively triple the number of this advanced Electronic Attack aircraft this side of the Pacific, with the current permanent force being six U.S. Navy Growlers of VAQ-141 Shadowhawks based at Atsugi, Japan assigned to Carrier Air Wing 5.

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