In a bid to strengthen Australia’s electronic attack (EA) capabilities, the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) 11-strong fleet of Boeing EA-18G Growlers will receive vital equipment/sensor upgrades – a move which aims to enhance commonality with examples of the type that are operated by the US Navy.
The RAAF’s EA-18G fleet is set to be overhauled as part of the Australian Department of Defence’s (DOD’s) Project AIR 5349 Phase 6 - Advanced Growler, which has been allocated an approved total budget of AU$2bn. As part this process, the Australian Growlers will be modified to carry more advanced, longer-range anti-radiation missiles and the type’s sensor suite will also be upgraded. Australia will also increase its stockpile of anti-radiation missiles and cooperate with the US Navy in the development of the Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ), which will gradually replace the Growler’s current ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System.
In addition, the Australian DOD has approved funding for facility improvements to be made at RAAF Base Amberley – the home of No 6 Squadron, the only RAAF unit to operate the Growler – in Queensland, along with the Delamere Air Training Area near Katherine in Australia’s Northern Territory. Australia will also enhance the capabilities of its electronic warfare (EW) training ranges.
The first contract – worth AU$277m – to be inked in relation to Project AIR 5349 Phase 6 - Advanced Growler was awarded to Australian radar company, CEA Technologies. This deal, which was announced by the Australian DOD on February 6, aims to enhance the overall capabilities of the nation’s EW ranges and includes the provision of fixed and portable emitters to support training exercises and strengthen EW capabilities across Australia’s joint force.
Commenting on the upgrade, Pat Conroy – Australia’s Minister for Defence Industry – said that it aims to deliver leading-edge technology to the RAAF which will be needed “to face an increasingly complex and uncertain strategic environment.”
Australia currently fields 11 EA-18Gs under No 6 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley. In total, 12 examples were delivered to the RAAF, with the type entering operational service in February 2017. One example was written-off following an engine fire and aborted take-off during Exercise Red Flag 18-1 at Nellis AFB in Nevada, on January 27, 2018. This EA-18G was placed into long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on September 30, 2021, that the US State Department had approved the sale of an additional Growler to Australia to replace the aircraft that was written-off at Nellis.