Australia will extend the service life of its Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers to 2040, observing that the two types complement the country’s Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters and other assets.

Canberra revealed its plan for the types in its Integrated Investment Program document, which outlines its goals for a broad range of defence capabilities.

RAAF Super Hornet

Source: Commonwealth of Australia

An RAAF F/A-18F. Canberra sees the type operating until 2040

It observes the value of the Super Hornet’s “large and diverse” weapons capacity, which helps support the F-35A. 

“Together, these two combat aircraft will provide the integrated, focused force with multiple credible and valuable strike and missile defence options,” says the document.

As for the EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft, it notes the type’s ability to support a broad spectrum of Australian Defence Force activity.

“The F/A‑18F Super Hornet and EA‑18G Growler will be provided with lethality and survivability upgrades, while maintaining their interoperability with the United States and other key partners,” says the document.

“Defence is looking to extend the operational life of both these capabilities to 2040.”

The document does not provide investment figures for the Super Hornet but indicates that the total planned investment in the F-35A over the next decade will be between $A4.3-5.3 billion ($2.75-3.4 billion), with investment in the EA-18G between A$3.8-4.3 billion.

Long-range strike capabilities are a priority across domains. This will see the Lockheed AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile integrated with Australia’s F/A-18Fs, F-35As, and Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

The AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile will also equip the F/A-18F and F-35A. The F-35A will also get the Northrop Grumman AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range, as will the EA-18G.

Finally, the F/A-18F will receive hypersonic weapons that will allow to engage targets at longer ranges.

Looking forward, Australia will continue to develop and assess the Boeing Australia MQ-28A Ghost Bat unmanned combat aircraft as well as other systems. In the coming decade, it foresees investment of A$4.3-5.3 billion in uncrewed capabilities.

MQ-28 Ghost Bat

Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

The MQ-28 Ghost Bat is the first combat aircraft designed and developed in Australia since the Second World War

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is also a high priority, with Canberra investing in two new capabilities: the Northrop MQ-4C Triton unmanned air vehicle and the Gulfstream MC-55A Peregrine.

“Modernisation of air power capabilities across the region has resulted in a need for more survivable and potent air domain capabilities that can operate at longer ranges,” says the document.

“The Integrated Investment Program includes investment of A$28‑33 billion in capabilities that will enable [the] Air Force to undertake expeditionary air operations to project force into our primary area of military interest. These capabilities will provide aerial surveillance of our maritime approaches, hold at risk, at extended ranges, potential adversary forces that could target our interests during a conflict and deter attempts to project power against Australia.”

The release of the Integrated Investment Program document coincided with Australia’s new National Defence Strategy document.

The strategy document states that Australia’s strategic environment is at its most challenging point since the Second World War.

“Entrenched and increasing strategic competition between the United States and China is a primary feature of our security environment,” states the document.

“It is being accompanied by an unprecedented conventional and non-conventional military build-up in our region, taking place without strategic reassurance or transparency. The challenges to regional stability and prosperity arising from this competition are being compounded by a range of other security risks, including climate change, grey-zone activities and technological advancements.”