CANBERRA — The Australian government will give the green light for conversion of up to 12 of its Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets to EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack aircraft.
Defense Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Defense Materiel Jason Clare made the joint announcement in Canberra on Aug. 23, revealing that a number of kits will be acquired via a Foreign Military Sales agreement with the U.S. government.
Total cost for the project is 1.5 billion Australian dollars, which includes conversion kits, support equipment, spares and training.
Twelve of Australia’s 24 Super Hornets were pre-wired for possible conversion to Growler, which added $35 million to the initial acquisition cost.
The government has since spent another $20 million on long-lead items, taking advantage of final U.S. Navy equipment buys.
The ministers said that the aircraft will be available for operational use from 2018, at which time Australia will be the only country outside the U.S. to field a Growler capability.
Australia also has a requirement for up to 100 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, but Lockheed Martin EVP/GM F-35 Program Integration Tom Burbage, also in Canberra on Aug. 23 for meetings with government officials, said he didn’t see the Growler purchase as a threat to the total number.
“We view them as totally separate programs; Growler has a whole different mission” than the F-35, he said. “It is a broad spectrum electronic warfare capability, where the F-35 does electronic attack. Those are two different missions.”