Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR February 2016 Contents seat F/A-18A and twin seat F/A-18B can undertake air
interception, air combat, close air support of ground
troops, and interdiction of enemy supply lines including
They can carry AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range
Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), AIM-132 Advanced
Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and AGM
158 Joint Air-To-Surface Stand-Off Missile (JASSM).
The AIM-120 AMRAAM is typically used for attacking
targets beyond visual range (BVR), with some versions
able to reach more than 100 kilometres range. Driven
by a solid fuel rocket motor at a speed of Mach 4
makes it a hugely difficult missile to intercept. It has
inertial guidance in flight before active radar homing
takes over in the terminal phase. Its twenty kilogram
explosive warhead, detonated by radar detection of the
close-up target, has a devastating effect.
The RAAF deploy the AIM-120 AMRAAM with
Classic and Super Hornets, and will on the EA-18G
Growler and F-35 Lightning II when they come into
Originally the RAAF used AIM-9X Sidewinders on
the Classic Hornets for short-range engagements,
since this is the most widely used missile in Western
air forces and is likely to remain in RAAF service in
Project AIR 5400 acquired AIM-132 ASRAAM
missiles for within visual range (WVR) combat. This
missile achieved service release in 2004 and is
considered superior in some respects to the infra-red
homing Mach 2.5 AIM-9 Sidewinder.
The AIM-132 ASRAAM is carried and fired from
Classic Hornets, but interestingly it has not replaced
the AIM-9X on Super Hornets. The RAAF website
currently states on their aircraft specification data
tables that the AIM-9X will be loaded on EA-18G
Growlers and F-35A Lightning IIs.
The AGM-158 JASSM is a long-range, conventional,
air-to-ground, precision standoff missile which is
certified for the RAAF’s Classic Hornets. Designed to
destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed and relocatable
targets, JASSM’s significant standoff range of over
350 km (standard version) and as far as 1000 km
when fitted with extended range wings, keeps aircrews
well out of danger from hostile air defence systems.
Lockheed Martin, JASSM’s manufacturer, states it
employs precision routing and guidance in adverse
weather, day or night, using a state-of-the-art infrared
seeker in addition to the anti-jam GPS to find a
specific aim point on the target. Its stealthy airframe
makes it extremely difficult to defeat.
Many people were surprised on 3 May 2007
when the Australian Government signed a $2.9
billion contract for 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets (called
‘Rhinos’ in RAAF service) as an interim replacement
for the F-111s which were shortly to come out of
service. A new Labor Government was elected at the
end of 2007, reviewed the contract but confirmed it,
particularly because there were suspicions that the
F-35 program was falling behind schedule. From 2010
onwards the aircraft started arriving in Australia.
The Super Hornet has proved an excellent aircraft in
RAAF service as it is providing upgraded air combat
capability for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions
until the full introduction into service of the F-35A
Lightning II. The twin seat Super Hornet can undertake
air interception, air combat, close air support of ground
troops and interdiction of enemy supply lines including
shipping. They are larger than Classic Hornets and
the aircraft's increased wing area allows them to carry
more stores on their extra hard points.
Their fitout includes AIM-120 AMRAAM and
AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles already covered above.
Additionally they can carry AGM-154C Joint Stand-Off
Weapon (JSOW) and AGM-84 Harpoon Anti-Ship
The RAAF tested the ability of its F/A-18F Super
Hornets to use its AGM-154C JSOW in October
2010 by releasing two JSOWs at the Woomera
Test Range in South Australia to successfully attack
separate hardened concrete bunkers, destroying both.
The test represented its first live firings performed
outside of the United States by the Super Hornet.
Armed with a blast/fragmentation warhead, the
AGM-154C has a maximum glide range of around
130km when released from a height of 12,000
metres. The JSOW has an integrated GPS-inertial
navigation system and terminal uncooled infrared
seeker that guides the weapon to the target. The
JSOW C carries a single BROACH warhead that has
blast, fragmentation and penetration effects JSOW
will probably also be integrated on the RAAF’s F-35A
Lightning II fleet.
The RAAF can fire AGM-84 Harpoon Anti-Ship
Missiles in an anti-shipping role from their Classic
Hornets, Super Hornets, AP-3C Orion and future P-8A
maritime patrol aircraft.
With a range in excess of 124 km, the all weather
radar guided turbojet powered sea-skimming Harpoon
is a formidable weapon. It delivers over 500 kg of high
explosives in a single strike. Although other precision
guided munitions are used against land-based targets,
there will continue to be a role for the Harpoon.
It is possible that Harpoon will be replaced sometime
in the future by the USN’s AGM-158C Long Range
Anti-Shipping Missile ( LRASM) which is a variant of
the AGM-158 JSSM already in RAAF service.
The RAAF state the EA-18G Growler is an airborne
electronic attack aircraft capable of providing force level
electronic warfare support by disrupting, deceiving or
denying a broad range of military electronic systems,
including radars and communications.
A squadron of 12 EA-18G Growlers will operate in
conjunction with Australia’s air, land and sea forces.
Defence plans to achieve Initial Operating Capability
No. 77 Squadron F/A-18 aircraft A21-7 carrying the JASSM weapon during OT&E at Woomera Range in South Australia.
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