Sunday, April 05, 2009

Australian electronic warfare aircraft

Boeing EA-18G GrowlerOn 11 September 2008 I suggested a relatively quick and easy purchase for Australian defence would be dozen EA-18G Growler aircraft. The Australian government has decided to do this, having 12 of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, which have already been ordered, wired for electronic attack. .This can be done for the relatively modest cost of A$35M, as the cable can be installed while the aircraft are being made.

There are some difficult decisions for the ADF to make. All that has been ordered is the cabling in the aircraft, not the extra sensors and transmitters to plug into the cable. The full offensive electronic warfare suite for the F18s would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The US is unlikely to provide the source codes for the EW software, so that Australia would be dependent on the USA for maintenance, upgrades and local requirements. There would be US imposed restrictions on what Australia could do with the aircraft and the relatively high cost of purchase, training and minenance.

Boeing is considering a export version of the F/A-18G. This would have the cabling and sensors to detect electronic emissions, but not transmitters for jamming. This would allow the aircraft to be sold with fewer export restrictions and be cheaper to buy an maintain. Australian might well choose a middle path, having some aircraft equipped with the full offensive capability and some with just sensors. It might also be worthwile plugging locally developed sensors and transmitters into the pre-installed cabling to customise the aircraft for local conditions.

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