The United States Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) 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 airborne electronic attack aircraft will replace an almost-new Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) EA-18, that was lost in a fire at the Nellis Airforce runway in the US in 2018. “The proposed sale will allow Australia to effectively maintain its current force projection capability that enhances interoperability with US forces well into the future and maintains their original primary lave of aircraft authorised,” the Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) said in its statement. News agency ANI reported that the DSCA had delivered the necessary certification to Congress notifying the possible handover on Thursday.
In a bid to strengthen its fleet, Australia had purchased twelve new-build Growlers under Project Air 5349 Phase 3. RAAF is expected to modify the US Navy EA-18G aircraft into a Royal Australian Air Force EA-18G configuration, DSCA said in a statement.
Australia and the US conduct joint air exercise
Meanwhile, an EA-18G Growler aircraft fleet conducted a joint exercise with the US on 24 August 2021. During the event, the United States Air Force KC-10 Extender and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft provided support to the RAAF Growlers with air-to-air refuelling during the second leg of the journey to Alaska, between Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, the Australian Department of Defence said in a statement.
“With the help from @usairforce, EA-18G Growlers were able to successfully make the 11,400km journey across the Pacific Ocean to Eielson Air Force Base, United States for Exercises Red Flag Alaska and Distant Frontier,” the Australian Department of Defence wrote on Twitter.
Flight Lieutenant Antonia said the exercises were critical to bilateral engagement and strengthening Indo-Pacific capabilities. “International exercises enable us to access complex airspaces and facilities that are not available in Australia,” Flight Lieutenant Antonia added. Notably, Australia recently signed a trilateral security agreement – AUKUS – with the US and the UK to acquire, enabling it to acquire nuclear-powered submarines amidst rising tension in the Indo-Pacific region.