$300 million RAAF jet up in flames
AN Australian air force jet was forced to abort a take off attempt and caught fire while on military exercises in Nevada - the latest in a string of incidents involving newly-acquired hi-tech defence vehicles.
The EA-18G Growler, delivered only last year at a cost of about $300 million, was taking part in the Red Flag exercises at the Nellis Air Force Base, on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
The Defence Department confirmed there had been an "incident" but that all Royal Australian Air Force personnel were safe and none had sustained serious injuries. The aircraft was severely damaged.
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.
Problems have also plagued Defence's purchase of two $1.5 billion warships, which spent almost all of last year berthed at Sydney after problems with the propulsion systems.
The landing craft designed to carry tanks to those vessels - the HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide - have also been suspended from use after they sank too low in the water.
The EA-18G Growler is a modified electronic warfare variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet designed to jam enemy radar systems.
Australia has bought 12 of the Boeing-built aircraft at a lifetime cost of about $3.7 billion - or $300 million each.
In a statement, the United States Air Force said the Australian aircraft had "experienced an incident during takeoff on the Nellis Air Force Base flight line" at 10.45am.
"The aircraft was required to abort its takeoff and subsequently caught fire," the statement reads.
"However all personnel are safe."
Amateur footage of the crash show the flames near the aircraft's wings and damage to the pods underneath the plane that contain the electronic warfare equipment.
The EA-18G is one of four sent to Nevada for the military exercises - which start today and continue for two weeks - alongside an AP-3C Orion and an E-7A Wedgetail aircraft.
The Defence Department said: "Defence is currently working with the United States Air Force to investigate and will provide an update with further details, once known."