Original funds allocated for self-protection suites are no longer adequate

The Royal Australian Air Force is forecasting a major increase in the cost of equipping its 71 Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornets with new electronic warfare self protection (EWSP)suites as part of a major upgrade.

Air Cdre John Clarkson, Australian Defence Materiel Organisation director general aerospace combat systems, says the EWSP requirement faces continued "funding pressure" despite having been deferred for the same reason two years ago.

"We have to revisit that in terms of our likely threat environment," he says. "But the original money that was forecast to be required for that upgrade is no longer adequate."

The equipment's scope "is very much to be debated". Earlier plans included options for either the ITT/Northrop Grumman ALQ-165 Advanced Self-Protection Jammer or the BAE Systems Integrated Defensive Electronic Counter-measures system. Clarkson says: "All of those possibilities are being revisited."

Boeing is the prime contractor for the RAAF's multi-phase Hornet upgrade, with 59 aircraft having received new communications and navigation suites over the past 18 months as part of Phase 1.

Boeing inducted the first aircraft into the Phase 2.1 upgrade, which will fit the Raytheon APG-73 radar, at RAAF Base Williamtown, north of Sydney, last week.

Meanwhile, the RAAF says a new wing-fatigue problem with its General Dynamics F-111s is more severe than previously revealed.

Clarkson says a F-111C wing "failed at very high hours" during testing. "There is a question of the relativity of those test hours to service hours. There is a question of safety factors. But in essence, in testing, we found the next weak point on the wing. So what we are doing is looking at what we need to do to ensure airworthiness."

Source: Flight International