Germany ‘Approves’ Nuclear-Capable F/A 18 Super Hornets, EW Aircraft EA-18G Growlers To Modernize Fleet – Media

Germany is likely to send the US government a letter of request (LOR), requesting to procure the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft, Janes reported quoting local German media. 

Michael Hostetter, vice-president of Boeing Defense, Space, and Security Germany, told Janes that a letter of intent to proceed with the planned sale is expected to be released in January, immediately after the German government is seated in early December. 

In 2020, Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer stated that Berlin plans to buy 30 American-made F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. 

File:Boeing F-A-18E Super Hornet '168912 - AJ-302' (23522156644).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Boeing F-A-18E Super Hornet (Wikipedia)

The Luftwaffe or the German Air Force wants to replace 90 Panavia Tornado Interdiction and Strike (IDS)/Electronic Combat Reconnaissance (ECR) aircraft with new platforms by 2025. Kramp-Karrenbauer informed the US government in 2020 that Berlin had granted the Luftwaffe permission to purchase a total of 45 Super Hornets and Growler aircraft.

She has also said that Germany will purchase roughly 90 Eurofighters too. Half of the Typhoons would be used to replace Tornados, whereas the other half would be used to replace Germany’s older Eurofighters.

The 30 F/A-18E/F multirole and 15 EA-18G jets will allow the Luftwaffe to meet its airborne nuclear strike and EA (electronic attack) requirements within the requisite timeframe. 

Growler As A Tornado Replacement

The EA-18G Growler is the US Navy’s latest electronic attack aircraft, designed to replace the aging EA-6B Prowlers.

The two-seater, twin-turbofan aircraft is designed on the F-18 E/F Hornet airframe and incorporates the latest electronic attack equipment such as the communication countermeasures, ALQ-99 jamming pods, ALQ-218 receiver, and satellite communications.

The Growler is equipped with the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar in addition to the electronic attack suite. With its proven design and the ability to undertake a wide range of enemy defense suppression tasks, the aircraft preserves all of the F/A-18E/F’s multi-mission capabilities.

Germany has been exploring potential replacement options for the Tornado in the past few years. The first batch of Tornado aircraft was delivered to erstwhile West Germany in 1979. German officials aim to start buying replacement planes starting 2025 to ensure that when the last Tornados leave service in 2030, there will be no loss in capabilities. 

File:Panavia Tornado IDS and ECR, German Air Force (cropped).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Panavia Tornado IDS and ECR, German Air Force

The inclusion of Growlers would provide a more viable replacement for the Tornado fleet’s Electronic Combat/Reconnaissance variants, or ECRs. The Tornado ECRs feature equipment to identify and pinpoint enemy radars and other transmitters, and are notably built to conduct suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) missions.

SEAD is among Growler’s mission objectives. And, these planes have significantly better electronic warfare capabilities than the older Tornado ECRs. A better aerial electronic warfare capability was also viewed as a prerequisite for supporting the nuclear mission, rather than just replacing the Tornado ECRs.

Growlers will play a major role to safeguard non-stealthy Super Hornets on nuclear and conventional strikes missions against a powerful enemy, which has a capable integrated air defense network. 

Ea-18G Growler Usn United States - Free photo on Pixabay
An American EA-18G Growler

Moreover, Growlers would also serve as a significant force multiplier for the German Air Force as a whole. It has the advantage of already being in production and in operation with the US Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force.  

Super Hornets To Carry Nukes?

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is the primary strike and air superiority aircraft of the United States Navy. It is a modernized variant of the F-18C/D, with a 20 percent larger airframe and 15,000 pounds maximum weight than the initial Hornet.

The Super Hornet possesses 11 weapon stations, with two additional wing store stations, to support a wide range of weaponry, including air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, and AIM-120 AMRAAM.

The aircraft can also employ the JDAM Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), joint stand-off weapon (JSOW), and joint air-to-surface stand-off missile, all of which are GPS/inertially directed. 

The APG-73 radar, provided by Raytheon, is installed aboard the Super Hornet. In comparison to the AN/APG-65 radar, which was fitted on earlier Hornets, the APG-73 radar has an updated processor with greater speed and memory capacity.

File:B61 nuclear bomb.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
B61 nuclear bomb- WIKI

Once procured, Germany is likely to arm its Super Hornets with the B61 nuclear bomb, also an American-made weapon.

Since nuclear delivery was one of the Panavia Tornado’s core missions (as part of the NATO Nuclear Sharing Program), quick replacement of this capability is critical to the German nuclear deterrent’s credibility. And Berlin believes Super Hornets can perfectly do this job.