In October 2021, ADM revealed that the US State Department had announced Congressional approval for Australia to purchase a replacement Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft.
The Growler will replace an almost new example lost in an accident in the US in 2018.
In the absence of any official statement from Defence, a senior Defence officer confirmed during the recent Senate Estimate hearing on 1 April that the deal will go ahead.
In response to direct questions from independent Senator Rex Patrick, Head of Aerospace Systems Division for CASG Air Vice-Marshal Leon Phillips revealed that approval was given on 28 February 2022. AVM Phillips also noted that the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s value of US$125 million for the single aircraft is a “not to exceed” figure and delivery to Australia is still some time away.
“The replacement aircraft will require a configuration change to make sure it is up to speed with our current baseline of aircraft and consistent with the baseline that Australia is operating,” AVM Phillips said.
“It will include flight test activities to complete all of that work, so I think there is a difference between what may have been quoted back in 2019 [the estimated cost of a replacement aircraft following the accident] and the actual acquisition process we are moving through at this stage.”
On 30 September 2021, the US DSCA announced approval for Australia to purchase one Growler aircraft (Lot 38 configuration or greater) from US Navy stock, saying at the time that the 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.”
In the same Senate Estimates hearing, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan, said that moves to replace one of Navy’s Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters lost in the Philippine Sea in October 2021 are also underway.
“With respect to the loss of that particular aircraft last year we have sought advice from the US in terms of the production run of the Romeos,” VADM Noonan testified. “And I have sought to provide advice to Government with respect to replacing that aircraft while the production run of the Romeos is still available to us.”