US agree to sell most powerful electronic warfare fighter to Australia

The US State Department has agreed to sell electronic warfare aircraft EA-18G Growler worth $125 million to Australia, which will compensate for the plane that caught fire in the 2018 incident.

The United States Defence Security Cooperation Agency has granted provisional approval to Australia to purchase a single unit of the EA-18G Growler aircraft.

On Wednesday, the US State Department approved the sale of the carrier-based aircraft along with engineering and maintenance services, DSCA said in a statement. The total sale value of the equipment and the electronic fighter is estimated to be approximately $125 million.

The EA-18G Growler aircraft

Manufactured by US defense giant Boeing, the EA-18 Growler is a derivative of the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The EA-18G began production in 2007 and entered operational service with the US Navy in late 2009.

The Growler with a length of 18.3 metres, a height of 4.9 metres, and a wingspan of 13.7 metres can cruise at top speeds of 1,960 kmph and boasts a service ceiling of 50,000 feet.

The aircraft was developed to counter adversaries by offering tactical jamming capabilities besides offering land and naval defence. This is accomplished via two Northrop Grumman ALQ-218(V)2 wingtip pods that have a wideband receiver and selective reactive jamming capability.

The Growler is armed with two AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs) and two AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. The commissioning of the EA-18 Growlers commenced in 2009 and is currently in use by the US Navy.

The EA-18G was first used in combat during Operation Odyssey Dawn, enforcing the UN no-fly zone over Libya in 2011.

Australia’s purchase

Canberra operates 11 EA-18Gs from RAAF Amberley. It formerly had 12, but one was lost in early 2018 owing to the catastrophic failure of a fan disk in its left side General Electric F414 engine. The aircraft was attempting to take off from Nellis AFB near Las Vegas during a Red Flag-series exercise.

No personnel were injured, but the aircraft was a write-off.

Other than the US, Australia will be the only other country to use the EA-18G Growler.

Commenting on the sale of the plane, the DSCA said: “Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region. It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defence capability.”

In times of AUKUS

The sale of the plane is taking place after the United States announced a new alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom, called AUKUS for short.

Under the new deal, the US would also equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

Experts opined that the new security pact would deepen the growing chasm in US-China relations.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had slammed the grouping as a reflection of “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception” that “intensified” a regional arms race and harmed international non-proliferation efforts.

The purchase of the EA-18G Growler also comes shortly after China’s J-16D Electronic Warfare aircraft made its first public appearance at the Zhuhai Airshow, equipped with dual jamming pods.

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