US approves sale of single EA-18G to Australia

Australia’s EA-18G Growler electronic attack (EA) fleet could be brought back up to full strength following notice that the US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale of a single aircraft and related equipment for US$125m.

As the only other country outside of the US to operate the type, Canberra’s original 12-strong EA-18G fleet is a key element of the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) electronic warfare capability. In 2018 one aircraft was destroyed following a fire during take-off from Nellis Air Force Base.

RAAF EA-18G
The replacement airframe will be taken from existing US Navy assets and be of a similar age as the current Australian EA-18G fleet. US Air Force/Senior Airman Beaux Hebert

In paying US$125m for the platform and support Australia will bear a significant premium, given the USN acquisition cost of around US$67m per aircraft.

Publishing the notice on September 30, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency stated that Australia had requested to purchase a single aircraft from the US Navy (USN), which would be modified into RAAF configuration. The notice stated that the aircraft would be sourced from Lot 38 or later.

The Lot 38 contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman in June 2014 for the manufacture and delivery of 33 EA-18G aircraft with Airborne Electronic Attack kits, which included 21 USN and 12 RAAF aircraft. Australia initially considered the option of converting six of its existing Lot 33 F/A-18 Super Hornets in RAAF service to the EA-18G standard, but eventually opted for new-build aircraft.

As part of its EA suite, the EA-18G Growler has integrated the ALQ-218 receiver, ALQ-99 tactical jamming pod, ALQ-227 communication countermeasures set, and Joint Tactical Terminal – Receiver (JTT-R) satellite communications into a standard F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The AN/ALQ-249 Next Generation Jamming Pod will eventually replace the existing ALQ-99 pods, with the Growler also featuring the APG-79 active electronically scanned array radar.