• Credit: Nigel Pittaway
    Credit: Nigel Pittaway

The US State Department has approved the sale of a former US Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft to Australia, to replace an almost-new example lost in a runway incident in the US in 2018.

Under the US$125 million deal Australia will acquire one EA-18G in Lot 38 (or later) configuration from US Navy stock and it will then be modified to RAAF specifications to enable commonality with the remainder of the fleet.

“The proposed sale will allow Australia to effectively maintain its current force projection capability that enhances interoperability with US forces well into the future and maintain their original primary level of aircraft authorised,” the Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) statement reads.

"This aircraft would replace Australia’s EA-18G (A46-311) aircraft lost in an accident at Nellis Air Force Base."

Australia purchased twelve new-build Growlers under Project Air 5349 Phase 3, in lieu of converting a similar number of its F/A-18F+ Super Hornets into electronic attack configuration. The first aircraft (A46-311) was handed over to the Commonwealth at Boeing’s Super Hornet and Growler production facility in St Louis in July 2015.

The Growler is operated by No.6 Sqn, based at RAAF Amberley and provides a force-level Electronic Warfare capability – the only such capability outside the US Navy and US Marine Corps today.

The former US Navy aircraft will replace an aircraft which suffered and uncontained failure of one of its two General Electric F414 engines during take-off for an Exercise Red Flag mission on 28 January 2018. Although the crew were able to exit safely, the aircraftwas extensively damaged by fire and the hulk was placed into storage at the US  309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis Monthan, Arizona, in October 2018.

Defence is yet to announce or confirm the proposed sale, but has been considering options for the restoration of the Growler fleet to its original size since 2018.

A previous version of this article erroneously stated the crew ejected from the damaged Growler when in fact they abandoned the aircraft after it had come to a stop off the runway.

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