The first Boeing EA-18G Growler for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was rolled out on Wednesday 29 July by Boeing and the US Navy. Australia has twelve of the electronic warfare aircraft on order under a foreign military sales agreement with the US Navy, and is the second country to operate the type following the US.
The Growler will fly to Naval Air Station (NAS) China Lake, California, for flight testing. It is then expected to head for NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, for training purposes. RAAF electronic warfare operators will train with US Navy pilots to gain expertise in the highly technical electronic warfare mission. The RAAF is expected to take delivery of the aircraft in-country in 2017.
The Growler is derivative of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and according toe Boeing, is the only aircraft in production providing tactical jamming and electronic protection. Australia already operates a fleet of older F/A-18A and B Hornets, plus 24 newer F/A-18F Super Hornets.
“The Growlers will complement our existing and future air combat capability, and we will be much more lethal,” said Air Marshal Geoff Brown, former chief of the RAAF. “In many respects, it’s the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle for the RAAF.” Australia is working to reshape the RAAF into an integrated, networked force able to deliver air power in all operating environments. The project is named Plan Jericho.
There is a big risk that the first Carrier Air Wing to board the newly build US aircraft carrier CVN 78 USS Gerald R Ford will have to operate in far less than ideal situations. The General Accountability Office (GAO) – or the guys and girls that keep track of government spending – slapped the US Department of Defense on the wrist on 20 November 2014. Roughly translated: the US military will have a ship – and with that the air wing on board – that is far less capable to enter combat then it’s supposed to be.
The most disturbing part for the aviators is the number of aircraft launches and landings, that seems to be less than what they need in order to be effective. The GAO puts it like this: “The Navy will have a ship that is less complete than initially planned at ship delivery, but at a greater cost.” And even after the Ford will be handed over in 2016 the US tax payers have to cough up an additional US$ 988 million to finish the semi-ready vessel, on top of the US$ 12.9 billion the vessel already is supposed to cost.
Aircraft that will board the Ford will be launched by electromagnetic catapults, in stead of the steam-powered launch facilities on the current 10 Nimitz-class vessels and all its modern predecessors. But so far the innovation has not promised the required amount of launches in a certain time frame, meaning the ship might be put into a war situation without having the necessary capabilities. That means the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes and maybe even the future F-35Cs will be operate from a base that is in less than ideal conditions.
The electromagnetic field that will propel the aviators off the ship would in theory enable them as to bring along more than 225 percent additional weaponry or other payload, compared to the current situation on the Nimitz-class carriers. This would make it easier for the air crew to either hit the target harder or conduct longer missions with less aerial refuellings.
CVN 79 USS John F Kennedy, the second Ford-class carrier, is on its way as well. But considering the current criticism the question is why the rush when even its brother Ford is disappointing. “After the planned investment CVN 78 may not achieve improved operational performance over the Nimitz class of aircraft carriers as promised for some time to come,” according to the GAO report.
The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) made its own version of the US Department of Defense FY2015 plan, willing to pump 548 billion dollars extra into the military spending. In the plan presented on 17 July 2014 not only the A-10s – nicknamed Warthog – will stay airborne, but it foresees also in more EA-18G Growlers the US Navy is advocating hard for. As we at Airheadsfly.com reported earlier the USN hopes to get an additional 22 of these electronic attack aircraft. Manufacturer Boeing has put in a helping hand, declaring at the 2014 Farnborough International Airshow this week it is very much willing to keep the Super Hornet production line open. The EA-18G is a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet derivative.
With the SAC plan it is now up to the full US Senate to decide over the alternative plan for the air assets of the US armed forces. So far no date has been set yet on when the issue is going to be addressed at Capitol Hill.
With the international community focusing on both the Russian-Ukrainian stand-off and the missing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, one almost forgets loads of other things happen in the world of aviation. Take the famous Red Flag exercises in the Nevada dessert. At AIRheads↑Fly we published a much viewed feature on edition 14-01, but the second Red Flag of the year went by largely unnoticed. Until now 🙂
Even the media units of the Belgian and Danish ministries of Defence hardly paid any attention to their men and women being deployed to literately the Vegas of aerial combat. Maybe they took the nickname of the host city a bit to seriously: What happens there, stays there. Only when Belgian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Aviator Gerard Van Caelenberge visited the operations at Nellis AFB, a little bit of news coverage followed but without any Belgian F-16s to show. From the Danish side, it was as quiet as it normally is from the Saudis who were also there this time.
The United States Navy is seeking possibilities to acquire 22 additional Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft and thus keeping the Super Hornet production line open for additional years.
By adding additional electronic warfare aircraft to the existing squadron the Navy tucks itself in for possible attrition losses or future demands. With the current Super Hornet / Growler production line under threat of closing down, it might be a way to either keep the line open and/or to build up margins – in other words: to prevent a lack of assets in the future.
The first operational EA-18G Growler, a derivative of the F/A-18E/F SuperHornet, was delivered to the the US Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 at NAS Whidbey Island in Washington state on 4 June 2008. At that time five EA-18Gs were already flying as test aircraft within the Navy. The Growlers are the successor of the EA-6B Prowler, which has been in service since 1971. The EA-18G combat debut was in 2011, enforcing a UN mandated no-fly zone over Libya dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn.