Australia will convert 12 of its Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets into EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft. The country currently operates 24 Super Hornets, half of which were pre-wired to accept the Growler configuration.
“It will provide options for the air force to undertake electronic threat suppression operations in support of Australian Defence Force operations, including land and sea forces,” says an Australian government release. “The Growler capability can also undertake intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and will be able to support the full range of defence tasks from evacuations to major conflicts.”
Canberra estimates the Growler conversion will cost A$1.5 billion ($1.57 billion), including conversion kits, support equipment, spares and training. The country expects the modified aircraft to be available for operations starting in 2018. Australia will become the second country after the USA to operate the Growler.
One potential snag is that the mid-band jamming pods that are flown as part of the Growler’s current ALQ-99 suite are not in production. The US Navy hopes to replace the mid-band jammers with its next generation jammer pod, which is expected to reach initial operational capability in 2020. The EA-18G’s low-band jamming pod, which is relatively new, is currently in production.