It might still be a few years before the electronic whizkids of the Royal Australian Air Force can growl for real at home, but the first Aussie pilot instructor is already flying the plane.
RAAF Flight Lieutenant Sean Rutledge has begun training with the Electronic Attack Wing of the US Pacific Fleet at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in the beginning of November. Rutledge will then instruct other RAAF aircrew that will be training to take the new Boeing 12 EA-18G Growlers into the blue yonder down under. Rutledge is a former F-111 (3 years) and F/A-18F Super Hornet (3 years) pilot and called RAAF Base Amberly in Queensland his work spot before he was sent to the States.
RAAF’s Wing Commander Paul Jarvis, who is deputy director of the Growler Transition team, sees it like this: “Training with US air wing is essential to our ability to establish a credible airborne electronic attack capability. We’ve started early as there is an awful lot to learn between now and when we begin flying our own EA-18Gs in 2017.”
Indeed a source within the RAAF recently said to international journalists that the RAAF might actually not only begin flying the Growlers in 2017, it might actually begin flying them ALL in that year.
That’s why over the next three years, six RAAF crews of pilot and electronic warfare officers (the ‘backseaters’) (comprised one pilot and one electronic warfare officer) will learn to fly EA-18G Growler with the US Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 129, with assistance from the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland.
The EA-18G Growler is an electronic warfare variant of the Super Hornet that has the ability to disrupt or jam a range of military electronics systems, including radars and communications systems. The main task is to protect the Australian forces by providing the ability to deny or disrupt an adversary’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum and hence, their electronic systems. The 12 EA-18Gs Australia is procuring for US$1.5 billion will be flying from RAAF Base Amberly. They will form the core of the RAAF aerial strike force, together with the F/A-18F and F-35A Lightning II.
The Australian military plans to achieve Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the Growlers in 2018.