Australia will acquire electronic attack systems for the half of its Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet fleet that is already wired for the equipment.

The upgrade will cost an estimated A$1.5 billion ($1.44 billion), and the converted aircraft are scheduled to be operational in 2018.

The Royal Australian Air Force operates 24 two-seat F/A-18Fs, 12 of which are wired for conversion to the EA-18G Growler configuration. The Department of Defense in Canberra says the upgrade will give the Australian Defense Force the ability to jam the radars and communications systems of aircraft, land and sea forces.

The modification will add wingtip electronic support-measures antennas, an electronic attack suite in the nose and ALQ-99 jamming pods. An artist’s impression of RAAF Growlers released by the Defense Department shows the Australian aircraft carrying AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles.

Australia is the only export customer for the Super Hornet, and the RAAF will become the first operator of the Growler version outside the U.S. Navy.

The decision means Australia will keep at least some of its Super Hornets in service alongside the planned Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.

The government has approved the purchase of the first 14 of 72 planned F-35s, with the first two to be delivered in 2014 for operational testing in the U.S. Delivery of the next 12 originally was scheduled for 2015-17, but now will be delayed by two years because of development program slips, according to Australia’s Defense Materiel Organization (DMO).

A risk assessment on the overall progress of the F-35 program is to be presented to the Canberra government late this year, which will inform a decision on whether to approve funding for the next tranche of up to 58 F-35s.

A subsequent phase to acquire a planned fourth squadron of F-35s, bringing the total fleet to around 100, will depend on a decision on the timing of the withdrawal of the F/A-18Fs, which is not expected before 2015, according to the DMO.