ST LOUIS–Australia is acquiring 12 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornets wired with the capability of being converted to EA-18 G Growler airborne electronic attack platforms.
Boeing [BA] this week unveiled the first of 24 Super Hornets being purchased for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
“We are wiring the last 12 aircraft to be capable to be converted to Growlers,” Air Marshal Mark Binskin, the chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, said here.
“Whether we continue down the Growler path is a decision for the government well into the future,” he added.
Binskin declined to specify a time frame for the move but said changes in the Australian security environment would inform the decision.
“It would be a good move to support [the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter] and the classic Hornets” already in the Australian fleet, he said.
Australia spent an additional U.S. $31 million to wire the 12 aircraft for the electronic attack capability, according to one Australian official.
Binskin added that his country has no “plan B” to purchase more Super Hornets if the F-35 is not able to enter the inventory as currently scheduled.
Australia is spending approximately U.S. $4.6 billion over 10 years on the 24 Super Hornets, according to a statement released yesterday by the country’s defense ministry.
“The RAAF Super Hornet will bring a new generation of air power to Australia,” said Group Capt. Steve Robertson of the RAAF. “Its advanced, networked weapons system will deliver enhanced air combat capability across the spectrum of air-to-air, strategic land attack and maritime strike. It is a true multi-role aircraft.”
Binskin also expressed optimism about the planned integration of the Lockheed Martin [LMT] Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) on the country’s older Hornets.
“We’re fully aware of the issues that are happening with the program,” he said. “But we still see it as the weapon we want to put on the classic Hornets.
U.S. Air Force officials have said the stealth cruise missile program is in danger of termination if it does not pass reliability tests scheduled for later this summer.
“I’m confident with where it’s going at the moment,” Binskin added, “but we’ll just have to wait and see.”