CANBERRA, Australia — Australia said Friday it would buy 12 Boeing EA-18G Growler advanced electronic warfare technology aircraft because it can't risk delivery delays in their replacement, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The government announced last year that its air force will equip 12 of Australia's F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighters with Growler radar-jamming equipment and other gear to knock out a wide array of electronic devices from 2018.
But the reviewed defense strategy released Friday said the government now plans to buy 12 new Growlers and to keep Australia's existing 24 Super Hornets as they are. Australia will be the only country other than the United States to operate Growlers, which are to be replaced eventually by JFSs.
"We've made decisions to protect our own air combat capability with the previous acquisitions of Super Hornets and now additional Growlers," Defense Minister Stephen Smith told reporters.
"It is quite clearly the case on our one analysis but also on U.S. analysis that the Joint Strike Fighter project ... has improved, but there are still risks associated with that and we're not prepared to ... take the risk of a gap in our air combat capability or superiority," he added.
The government has not said when the new Growlers will be delivered. Smith said they will cost around $1.5 billion. Australia plans to buy 14 JSFs for $3.2 billion and is contracted to buy two which will be delivered in 2014 and 2015.