Chief of Air Force AIRMSHL Mel Hupfeld and CASG’s Head of Aerospace Systems Division (HASD) AVM Greg Hoffman have told a Senate Estimates hearing on November 29 that Australia will not receive any compensation for an RAAF EA-18G Growler which was destroyed on takeoff from Nellis AFB in Nevada in January 2018.
The aircraft was departing Nellis AFB at the start of a Red Flag familiarisation mission on January 27 2018 when a high pressure turbine disk in one of its engines fractured and disintegrated, and the engine and rear fuselage caught fire.
Despite approaching takeoff speed, the crew was able to keep the aircraft on the ground. It came to rest just off Nellis’ eastern runway, and the crew safely evacuated the aircraft. Nellis fire crews were quickly on the scene, but the aircraft was later declared a write-off due to the extensive fire and structural damage around the rear fuselage and landing gear.
Reports indicate the disk had broken into three major pieces, one of which went sideways through the other engine and landed on an adjoining aircraft parking ramp, one went upwards and destroyed the starboard vertical stabiliser, and one went down and damaged the the runway.
The Growler was nearly new with less than 200 hours on it. Despite being so early in the fleet’s service life, it is unlikely the RAAF will seek to replace the aircraft, and it will likely be considered part of an acceptable rate of attrition which would have been a factor when the original order for 12 EA-18Gs was placed.
At the time of the confirmation of the write-off, Defence said it “is exploring options for the recovery of economic losses resulting from the incident.” The RAAF had hoped it would receive some compensation for the loss of the aircraft from engine manufacturer General Electric, from prime contractor Boeing, or from the US Navy as the foreign military sales (FMS) authority.