Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price have announced Queensland-based TAE Aerospace will increase its proportion of deep maintenance work for the F414 engines used in the Royal Australian Air Force’s F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler Aircraft.
TAE Aerospace is an Australian local industry partner of General Electric International Incorporated (GEII), and has increased its proportion of deeper maintenance work on F414 engines from 25 per cent to 85 per cent in just five years.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds explained the increase demonstrates the opportunities available for Australian businesses to be involved in delivering critical Defence capabilities.
"This is a significant increase in Australian content in only five years and is yet another demonstration of the capabilities that exist in Australia. TAE is 100 per cent Australian owned, with about 220 employees at several sites across Australia, and holds additional contracts to maintain the engines for M1 Abram tanks and F-35A Lightning II aircraft," Minister Reynolds said.
TAE’s involvement has led to innovation in the maintenance of the F414 engines by developing repairs for components, which would previously have been thrown away when they failed.
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price welcomed the announcement and said this recognition of TAE’s approach has not only reduced costs, it has also improved engine availability for the Air Force.
"This is the first time Australian industry has supported the US Navy engine fleet. The locally developed solutions have been so successful that GEII is now working with TAE to export these unique, Australian developed repairs to support the US Navy’s F414 engine fleet," Minister Price explained.
Air Force has 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets, which ensure that Australia's air combat capability edge is maintained until the full introduction of the F-35A Lightning II.
The F/A-18F Super Hornets are based at Number 1 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley.
After achieving final operational capability in December 2012, they have participated in a range of exercises and operations, including:
- Exercise Pitch Black in the Northern Territory;
- Exercise Bersama Shield on the Malaysian Peninsula; and
- Operation OKRA in the Middle East.
The F/A-18F Super Hornet is larger than the F/A-18A/B Hornet. The aircraft's increased wing area allows it to carry more stores (mounted devices) on its additional hardpoints.
The twin seat F/A-18F Super Hornet can undertake:
- Air interception;
- Air combat;
- Close air support of ground troops; and
- Interception of enemy supply lines including shipping.
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.
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.
Australia's fleet of 11 EA-18G Growlers will be based at RAAF Base Amberley and operate in conjunction with the air, land and sea forces.
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 its first flight in July 2015.