A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Growler plane caught fire while taking part US military exercises in Nevada.
The fire occurred at about 10:45am on Saturday (local time) after the aircraft was required to abort its take-off.
The pilot and an electronic warfare officer aboard the aircraft at the time were able to escape the plane once it landed.
While there were “no serious injuries”, the plane suffered enough damage that it may need to be replaced.
“It’s not looking good. There’s a lot of burnt area at the back of the aircraft now that could potentially suggest that some of the internal systems in the aircraft have been significantly damaged,” Malcolm Davis from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said.
RAAF Growler apparently experienced a critical engine failure during takeoff at Nellis AFB, before skidding off the runway. Pilot and ground crew are safe. pic.twitter.com/xlqS0r0eFE
— Elana Lee McIntyre (@elana__mcintyre) January 28, 2018
It comes days after another Australian military jet — a giant KC-30A tanker aircraft narrowly avoided a deadly collision with two British fighters over Iraq because of pilot inexperience and a broken fuelling system.
The EA-18G Growler was taking part in Exercise Red Flag with the US Air Force, a hyper-realistic, three-week-long training exercise that takes place in the skies above Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
Australia is just one of two US allies, alongside the UK, to participate in the exercise.
This year four EA-18G Growlers, an AP-3C Orion, and a E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft will participate in Red Flag, along with a Control and Reporting Centre from 41 Wing to support airborne personnel and aircraft.
The Growler jets joined the RAAF in February last year, making their first appearance at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon after the former Gillard government announced plans to spend $1.5 billion on 12 Growlers four years ago.
Last year the Turnbull government announced it would top up the funding for the jets by spending an additional $250 million to “future proof the Growler’s capability” with next-generation radar and radio jammers in a partnership with the US Navy.
Australia is the only nation outside of the US with the Growler jamming electronics, which can block radar systems to protect other forces.
“Australia is the only country outside the United States flying the EA-18G Growler and its arrival is a significant leap forward in Australia’s joint electronic warfare capability and introduces a dedicated electronic attack option,” Minister for Defence Marise Payne said at the time.
The Australian Defence Department is currently working with the United StatesS Air Force to investigate the incident.
Additional reporting by Simon Thomsen.
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