An important step in the introduction of the Royal Australian Air Force’s electronic warfare capability has commenced, with the first pilot instructor commencing flying on the EA-18G Growler in the United States.
Flight Lieutenant Sean Rutledge has commenced training with the Electronic Attack Wing, US Pacific Fleet (CVWP) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Once he’s completed his training, Flight Lieutenant Rutledge will be qualified to instruct other RAAF aircrew for the 12 EA-18G Growlers the Australian Government is purchasing from the United States Foreign Military Sales program.
Wing Commander Paul Jarvis, Deputy Director EA-18G Growler Transition team, believes training with the US Navy is essential.
“Training with CVWP is essential to our ability to establish a credible airborne electronic attack capability,” he said.
“We’ve started early as there is an awful lot to learn between now and when we begin flying our own EA-18Gs in 2017. The support that we have had from the US Navy, particularly from Captain Springett and his team here at NAS Whidbey Island has been truly magnificent. They have really made us feel welcome as new members of the community.
“Growler is a game changer for the Royal Australian Air Force. With its unique mix of capabilities it provides multiple options to commanders, all of which reduce the risk to supported Australian Defence Force or coalition forces whilst increasing their lethality,” Wing Commander Jarvis said.
Over the next three years, six crews (comprised one pilot and one electronic warfare officer) from RAAF will learn to fly EA-18G Growler at the US Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129), with assistance from the US Program Management Office (PMA-265) at Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland.
Flight Lieutenant Rutledge said his previous flying experience will support his transition to the EA-18G Growler. He has several multi-national exercises under his belt including Exercise Red Flag held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. He spent three years flying F-111s, and another three years flying F/A-18F Super Hornets at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland.
The experienced pilot hails from Far North Queensland and travelled to the US with his wife and family dog.
“It’s a great spot with plenty of outdoor things to do,” he said. “But I’ll have to ‘transition’ from surfing to snow skiing to fit in with the very welcoming people here in the northwest.”