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The RAAF may soon have 12 of its Super Hornet fighter-bombers equipped as “Growlers“, the US aircraft packed with electronic equipment that paralysed the Libyan regime’s communications and missile systems.
The Australian reports that the Gillard government is considering spending more than $300 million having half of the 24-strong Super Hornet fleet fitted out for electronic warfare.
The Growler would be much more potent than anything in the region and would be capable of paralysing the communications and radar systems around targets being attacked by RAAF aircraft or aboard enemy aircraft attacking Australian targets. As well as neutralising enemy capabilities, the Growler can deal with terrorists by shutting down their ground-based communications and devices to trigger bombs.
The 24 Super Hornets were ordered by Howard government defence minister Brendan Nelson for $6 billion and in 2009 Labor asked that 12 of them be wired to allow for the later installation of electronic attack capabilities.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith and the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare, said the Super Hornet would ensure Australia’s air combat dominance in the region until the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter after 2018.
“The Super Hornet gives the RAAF the capability to conduct air-to-air combat, strike targets on land and at sea, suppress enemy air defences and conduct reconnaissance,” they said.
Source: The Australian
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The RAAF will celebrate the completion of the fleet for 1 and 6 Squadrons, based at Amberley with the flypast before an official ceremony at the base on Friday morning. A flypast of up to 20 RAAF Super Hornets is expected this Friday as it marks the final delivery of four aircraft.
“A flypast of up to 20 jets will take place over the skies of Queensland on Friday followed by a solo aerial display that will be performed over the base,” said a RAAF spokesman. She also said that the arrival of four Super Hornets jets from the US will take the number of the F/A-18F fighter jets to 24 at the base.
The F-18 jets will fly over the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and then arrive at the base after 11am.
The first 15 Super Hornets became operational in December after the retirement of the F-111s. Thousands of spectators witnessed the final flight of the F-111s from multiple vantage points last year.
“There will be a mass formation flypast of up to 20 F/A-18F Super Hornets over the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Brisbane and Ipswich, this Friday as part of the welcoming ceremony for four new Super Hornets,” another spokeman said in a statement.
“The final number of aircraft flying will depend on operational and training tasks for the aircraft.”
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Defence Minister Stephen Smith has set a firm 2012 deadline on any decision to buy additional Boeing Super Hornet aircraft in the face of further delays in delivery of the new Joint Strike Fighter. Smith again vowed he would not allow any air combat capability gap to emerge between retirement of older F/A-18 Hornet aircraft and entry to service of the JSF.
Under current plans, Australia is looking to acquire up to 100 of the advanced Lockheed-Martin F-35 JSF at a cost around $16 billion. But so far Australia has committed to buy just 14, with the RAAF set to take delivery of the first two in the US for training in 2014-15.
The Defence Minister said the RAAF’s 71 classic Hornets were being upgraded and would remain in service until around 2020 when the JSF is expected to enter full service. Twenty of 24 new Super Hornets have now been delivered with the rest to arrive later this year. He then added that Australia prudently chose to buy the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) JSF variant rather than the more troubled carrier or short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variants.
Advice from the Defence Department indicated Australia could wait until 2013 to make a judgement about whether alternative arrangements were required to ensure there was no gap in capability, he said.
“I am not proposing to wait until the last minute. I am proposing to recommend to the government that we make that decision next year,” Smith said in answer to a question from independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
He said there was an obvious Plan B – more Super Hornets.
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Veteran Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-111 aircrews are drawing on their strike experience to create the first squadrons of the nation’s F/A-18F Super Hornet fleet.
Among them is Wing Commander Terence Deeth, the skipper of Australia’s No. 6 Sqdn., which takes on operational training duties for the fleet. “We take the pilots and WSOs and turn them into functioning crews before feeding them into No. 1 Sqdn.,” says Deeth. “With retirement of the F-111, there’s only one place for WSOs to go. The [training process for Super Hornet] is in its infancy. At the moment, we’re doing the same sorts of things as [those training for the older] classic F/A-18s. We have the capacity to do it a little bit better.”
The F-model Super Hornet has a two-person crew, like the now-retired F-111, and a portion of the latter’s navigator-bombardiers are being retrained as weapon systems officer (WSO) cadres and aircrews for the F/A-18F.
WSOs will be a subspecialty within the larger RAAF category of air combat officer (ACO), which was instituted about five years ago. If Australia decides to turn 12 of the F-model aircraft into EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, another ACO specialty will be added for electronic warfare officers (EWOs).
“There are many more capabilities available from the F-model within the fast-jet-force air combat group than there ever was for the F-111,” says Deeth. “We’re looking to exploit those [data transfer] capabilities. It’s all about network-centric warfare.”
Aircrew candidates go through pilot and WSO training and are then screened based on the RAAF’s requirements and personal assessments of their skills and aptitude. Interaction in a crew environment is a key determinant. Once the F-model transition course is completed, the crews go to No. 2 Sqdn.
“The difference between what the U.S. Navy does and what we are doing here is that we are training from the first day as a crew and they go all the way through that way,” says Deeth. “That comes from our experiences with the F-111.”
The training program also is shaped in part by exchange programs with British Tornado, U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle and U.S. Navy Super Hornet units.
“We threw that into a melting pot based on the classic Hornet,” says Deeth, who completed the transition course in November. “I made it my business to do the course from start to end so that I would know the standard and the issues that might spring from the Australian context,” he adds.
“As to matching a crew, we’re going to do something a little different,” he says. “We plan to pair four student crews and then change them throughout the course — normally for the simulator sessions. When they actually fly, it will be with instructor aircrews. Occasionally, they will have solo flights with their crew buddy as wingman to an instructor crew.”
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Airbus Military expects that by early November the remaining test flights for the Royal Australian Air Force’s A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft will be completed, clearing the way for deliveries to begin before year’s end.
The first operator of the A330 tanker variant will be the RAAF. Flight testing for the MRTT’s military certification was completed in July after a seven-month program involving 112 flights. Spanish military approval was received Oct. 5, said Airbus’s head of flight operations and test, Gabriel Garcia Mesuro. “There remain less than 10 qualification flights to fly [for the RAAF],” he said. Some of the testing left will involve night flights for receiver qualification. Mesuro claims “We’ll finish all these by early November.”
Mesuro said that the MRTT flight test effort involved the RAAF’s first two A330s, while its third aircraft has just gone into the paint shop in Paris. The next phase will be the start of the “formal delivery process,” he adds. “We will deliver two MRTTs by the end of the year — numbers two and three. The aircraft will be ready for delivery by early December.”
Conversion of the RAAF’s fourth MRTT began “some months ago” and will be completed in mid-2011, Mesuro said, while its fifth and final aircraft will be delivered to Qantas for modification early next year.
Meanwhile, the second A330 MRTT Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) for the U.K. Royal Air Force completed its first post-modification test flight from Airbus’s Getafe plant near Madrid on Oct. 26. The manufacturer says the crew reported that the aircraft, its systems and Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines performed entirely satisfactorily during the 2-hour flight.
The RAF’s first FSTA, which made its first flight on Sept. 16, is grounded in Getafe while its Cobham-supplied fuselage refueling unit system is installed.
Mesuro stated “There was a delay in the delivery of the system from the supplier, but we have now received it.”
This aircraft performed five flights prior to going into the workshop. Early next year, it will undertake refueling qualification tests in the U.K. with various RAF aircraft, including the Eurofighter Typhoon. Mesuro said the FSTA may also fly some refueling trials with the Airbus Military A400M. According to Airbus, formal deliveries to the RAF are due to begin toward the end of 2011.
The first A330 MRTTs for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are due to make their post-modification first flights from Getafe early next year.
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Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said the Federal Government had donated an F-111 to Ipswich to go on display at RAAF Base Amberley. Now, Ipswich will have a permanent reminder of the famous F-111 fighter plane.
Cr Pisasale, who boasts flights in the F-111 and its replacement, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, was delighted by the news.
“It’s fantastic,” Cr Pisasale said yesterday, adding the Government had agreed to pay the $1 million cost of decommissioning the plane.
“After its last flight in December, it will be parked on the tarmac then decommissioned and put on display in the RAAF Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre. It’s going to be a great addition to the city. Ipswich deserves one,” he added.
Ipswich Art Gallery plans to present a major exhibition celebrating the F-111 aircraft to coincide with the official decommissioning ceremonies.
In March, the QT reported about half of the F-111s that were introduced to RAAF in 1973 would be scrapped after they were decommissioned.
F-111 “Aardvark” is a medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft that also fills the roles of strategic bomber, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare in its various versions. Developed in the 1960s and first entering service in 1967, the United States Air Force (USAF) variants were officially retired by 1998. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is the sole remaining operator of the F-111.
- The Queensland Times