Germany Approves Nuclear-Capable F / A 18 Super Hornets and EW Aircraft EA-18G Growlers to Upgrade Fleet

Germany is likely to send the U.S. government a letter of request (LOR), asking for the Boeing F / A 18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler planes, Janes reported, citing 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 issued in January, immediately after the seat of German government in early December.

In 2020, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Berlin plans to purchase 30 US-made F / A-18E / F Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes.

Boeing FA-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 Hornet and Growler aircraft.

She also said that Germany would also buy around 90 Eurofighter. Half of the Typhoons would be used to replace the Tornados, while the other half would be used to replace the old German Eurofighter.

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

Growler as a tornado replacement

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

The two-seater twin-turbofan aircraft is designed on the airframe of the F-18 E / F Hornet and incorporates the latest electronic attack equipment such as communication countermeasures, ALQ-99 jamming modules, the ALQ-receiver. 218 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 multi-mission capabilities of the F / A-18E / F.

Germany has explored potential replacement options for the Tornado in recent years. The first batch of Tornado aircraft was delivered to the former West Germany in 1979. German authorities aim to start purchasing replacement aircraft from 2025 to ensure that when the last Tornados leave service in 2030, there will be no loss of capacity.

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 Electronic Combat / Reconnaissance variants, or ECRs. The Tornado ECRs have equipment to identify and locate enemy radars and other transmitters, and are particularly designed to carry out enemy air defense suppression (SEAD) missions.

SEAD is part of Growler’s mission objectives. And, these planes have much better electronic warfare capabilities than the older Tornado ECRs. Better air electronic warfare capability was also seen as a prerequisite for supporting the nuclear mission, rather than simply replacing the Tornado ECRs.

The Growlers will play a major role in protecting non-stealth Super Hornets during nuclear and conventional strike 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

In addition, the Growlers would also serve as an important force multiplier for the entire German Air Force. It has the advantage of being already in production and in operation with the US Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force.

Super hornets to transport nuclear weapons?

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

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

The aircraft can also use JDAM Joint Direct Attack Ammunition (JDAM), Joint Ranged Weapon (JSOW), and Joint Air-to-Ground Ranged Missile, all directed by GPS / inertia.

The APG-73 radar, supplied by Raytheon, is installed on board the Super Hornet. Compared to the AN / APG-65 radar, which was installed on previous Hornets, the APG-73 radar has an updated processor with higher speed and memory capacity.

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

Once acquired, 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 main missions of the Panavia Tornado (as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing program), rapid replacement of this capability is essential for the credibility of German nuclear deterrence. And Berlin thinks the Super Hornets can do this job perfectly.

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