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Australian Growlers achieve initial operating capability

In a major milestone for the development of a fifth-generation Royal Australian Air Force, Australia’s fleet of EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft have successfully achieved IOC.

Their US counterparts were responsible for blinding the Gaddafi regime in Libya, and now the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, has confirmed that Australia's formidable EA-18G Growlers had achieved IOC, marking a significant achievement in Defence’s efforts to improve joint electronic warfare capability.

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The EA-18G Growler is an electronic attack aircraft. Growler is capable of disrupting, deceiving or denying a broad range of military electronic systems, including radars and communications.

Australia's fleet of 11 EA-18G Growlers will be based at RAAF Base Amberley and operate in conjunction with our air, land and sea forces.

AIRMSHL Davies welcomed the milestone, saying, "Over time, this aircraft will work with Army and Navy platforms to enhance our ability to control the electronic environment, and where necessary, deny or degrade the electronic systems of adversaries."

Based on F/A-18E/F Super Hornet variant of the wildly successful Boeing Hornet, the EA-18G Growler has proven itself to be an invaluable asset to the US when deployed overseas. As the only nation besides the US to fly the Growler, Australia has developed unique training procedures in conjunction with US Navy partners to fully utilise the capabilities of the aircraft. 

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The Growler incorporates a number of advancements over the traditional Super Hornet, including: 

  • An additional avionics suite;
  • Enhanced radio frequency receivers;
  • An improved communications suite; and
  • ALQ radio-frequency jamming pods, which enable it to jam enemy systems.

"This will provide a capability edge by enhancing tactical options to reduce risks to Australian and partner maritime, land and air forces in more complex and high-tech conflicts of the future," AIRMSHL Davies added. 

Initially purchased alongside the more traditional Super Hornet variants to supplement Australia's ageing fleet of classic Hornets and the diminished strike capability following the retirement of the F-111s, prior to the full integration of the Air Force's 72 planned F-35s, IOC is expected to be delivered to the RAAF in the coming months. 

Australia's Growlers were part of a larger US Navy buy of 44 Super Hornets and Growlers in July 2014, with the first Australian EA-18G making it's first flight in July 2015. All 12 of Australia's Growlers were formally welcomed to their home base at RAAF Amberley in 2017, providing air crews and pilots the opportunity to build familiarity and an understanding of the aircraft and its unique capabilities. 

The partnership between the US Navy and the RAAF has been instrumental in insuring that Australia's Growler pilots, crew and the capability of the aircraft is maximised, particularly as Australia is essentially building the electronic attack capability from the ground up.

This has meant that Australian pilots and aircrews are undergoing extensive familiarisation and training programs with US Navy counterparts prior to additional training in Australia in order to incorporate the capabilities of the aircraft into the wider RAAF and ADF. 

It is now expected that the Growlers of No. 6 Squadron RAAF will be capable of providing limited, force-level electronic warfare. This means that until final operating capability (FOC) is achieved, the aircraft will be largely limited to peacetime operations or responding to regional contingencies as needed.

Reaching FOC will require additional testing and broader integration with key ADF assets, particularly the Navy's new Air Warfare Destroyers, Air Force's E-7 Wedgetail AEWC aircraft and later F-35s and key ground assets of the Army to ensure that the ADF is developed into a full-spectrum, integrated force.

FOC for Australia's Growlers is expected in 2022. 

Australian Growlers achieve initial operating capability
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