Australia reviews plan to equip Hornets with RWR

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DoD studies future options for planned integration of nationally developed avionics

Plans to equip the Royal Australian Air Force's Boeing F/A-18A/B fighters with BAE Systems Australia's ALR-2002 radar warning receiver (RWR) are under review, says minister for defence Brendan Nelson, denying local media reports that the project has been cancelled.

The review is focusing on integration of the ALR-2002 system and an Australian-designed electronic warfare suite controller into the F/A-18 Hornet's operational flight programme software system. It is also examining the sensitivity performance of the ALR-2002 at high subsonic and supersonic speeds. Military sources have rejected separate claims that the design suffers from weight and fit problems.

The RWR system was originally developed by Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation for potential use by the RAAF's General Dynamics F-111 strike aircraft. It is already in production for several Australian Defence Force helicopter and transport aircraft types under the Project Echidna electronic warfare self-protection system upgrade. Nelson says a 2005 decision to equip the F/A-18 with the ALR-2002 instead of a Raytheon ALE-67 variant was "taken on strategic national security grounds".

The RAAF F/A-18 community has vigorously resisted Department of Defence plans to fit the locally-developed system, arguing this would impact the aircraft's integrity and operational performance.

"The remaining schedule and risk in fully developing the ALR-2002 for the F/A-18 is under active review," says Nelson. "No decision has yet been taken to stop BAE's further development of the system". The Hornet-variant RWR will cost approximately A$94 million ($70.8 million) to develop.