Labor wants Growler

After first spending months attacking Brendan Nelson for having the good sense to order the Super Hornet the government now wants to order more. Several FA-18G versions, the electronic warfare version known as the Growler. Not that I object to the order, the Growler is a remarkable aircraft that will provide the RAAF an extra very useful capability.

THE Rudd Government has sought US export approval for a cutting-edge electronic-warfare aircraft, the Growler, which is capable of performing escort and radar-jamming missions.

Designed for the US Navy, the Growler is a carrier-based electronic warfare version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet, 24 of which Australia has ordered at a cost of $6.7 billion.

Details of the approach were confirmed yesterday by the aircraft’s maker, Boeing. Canberra has not formally placed an order for the advanced military jet, but wanted clarification from Washington on whether the aircraft could be purchased at a future date.

Boeing’s Super Hornet program manager, Carolyn Nichols, said from the company’s St Louis head office: “The RAAF has submitted a formal request for release for the Growler to the US Government.

The export release of the Growler to Australia is still in review and in progress. “Boeing does not have a marketing licence to market the Growler to Australia, so we did not participate in US Government top-level briefs that have been conducted on the Growler capability to the RAAF.”

Defence analysts told The Australian that about six Growlers would be needed to complement the Super Hornet fleet, the first of which will be delivered to the RAAF in 2010.

So far, the US Navy is the only operator of the Growler, which is designed to accompany F/A-18Fs on attack missions, performing radar jamming and other electronic warfare tasks. Any agreement would come under the US Foreign Military Sales protocol covering advanced military equipment……

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