Might be wrong here and a lot of this is going from memory, but:
- There is a requirement for 100 fighter jets for the RAAF, I don't know if this includes attrition or not. The Growlers are explicitly not
counted in this figure, they are support aircraft, if they were regarded as fighter aircraft then the purchase would not have been approved. Hence one
reason why the 12 pre-wired aircraft purchased in 2007 were not converted and instead 12 new Growlers were purchased in 2013 (6 years later) - Defence
wanted the fighters and
the support aircraft, not some either/or deal.
- The Super Hornets were supposed to be a fleet of 24 "interim" fighters to fill in between the retirement of the F-111 and F-35, but realistically
they aren't interim at all and are going to serve for some time, besides which the F-35A will IOC in December 2020. We need those aircraft, Block II
Super Hornet is a very substantial increase in capabilities over the Classic Hornet, and converting one Super Hornet to Growler means that one of our
most capable fighters is lost and one support aircraft is maintained.
- Strategic outlook for Australia has worsened since the Super Hornet deal was confirmed towards the end of last decade. This also probably factors in
the governments thinking of adding Growlers, rather than converting them despite being able to do so. This means growing air force requirements since
the first 24 were ordered. Remember the original plan from 2001 was for 100 F-35's, then in 2007 we settled for 72 F-35's, 24 'interim' Super Hornets,
before replacing the latter with a fourth squadron of F-35s to bring the entire F-35 fleet to 100. And now in 2013 12 Growlers have been added on top.
It ain't 2001, 2007, or 2013 anymore, the world is far less stable, the US is relatively in a much weaker position, and SE Asia is heating up.
- Whilst 12 Super Hornets were pre-wired for Growler configuration, this is still not a straight forward change. i.e. even the wings have differences.
Zero chance of a franken Super Hornet / Growler on something with this much RF equipment. That means changing the wings over and other changes that I
have not mentioned.
I think it's likely that if it cannot be repaired, an entirely new aircraft will be purchased. I'm not
a fan of losing one of our 24 most
capable aircraft to convert it into a support aircraft. Buy a new one, we have the budget and need to do so. Could probably get a new one within a
year or two depending on how fast they push it.
Aside: I do like the idea of having aircraft that can be converted however. This may be necessary in future if the Super Hornet goes out of production
and the fourth (final) F-35A squadron is announced, which would negate the need for the 'interim' Super Hornets. I don't think we will hear word on
the final planned F-35 squadron before F-35A IOC in December 2020. After all waiting on that allows us to get a later block F-35 in the late 2020's.
Late 2020's F-35 is going to be a beast - variable cycle engine is possible, redesigned weapons bay is possible, upgraded avionics, upgraded EOTS,
DIRCM. Pre-wired aircraft also allows for replacement of attrition and combat losses if the Super Hornet is out of production. Remember the goal of
having pre-wired aircraft is to afford us more options in the future and it has and will do that job marvelously well, but because the opportunity has
arisen doesn't mean this is the time to exercise that option.
edit on 28/1/18 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)