After more than 30 years of service, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has formally retired its fleet of single-seat F/A-18A and two-seat F/A-18B Classic Hornets, replaced by fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighters.
The F/A-18A and F/A-18B were Australia’s premier fighter jets, with the first RAAF Hornets flown from the US to Avalon, Victoria, in June 1984. They have been in service since 1985.
Australia’s fleet of Hornets completed over 408,000 flying hours and more than 1,900 missions.
“It is quite fitting that in Air Force’s Centenary year we say goodbye to the Classic Hornet, a fighter jet that has been an integral part of Australia’s defence capability for more than three decades,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said during a ceremony to bid farewell to the jet fighter at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.
The jets were used during overseas missions including Operation Slipper following 9/11.
“The Australian Government agreed to deploy F/A-18A/Bs to protect the major United States Air Force airbase on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, which was being used to stage operations in Afghanistan,” the government statement quoted Air Marshal Hupfeld as saying.
The first time it was used in combat was in Iraq during the early 2000s as a part of Australia’s contribution to the War on Terror. More recently, the Hornets were part of the Global Coalition against Daesh (Islamic State).
Induction of the F-35A
The F-35A stealth fighter is a product of the US Joint Strike Fighter program, intended to replace a wide range of existing fighter, strike, and ground-attack aircraft for the US, UK, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and formerly Turkey.
Australia has ordered a total of 72 F-35A fighters from the US, making it one of three nations in the Eastern Pacific to own the jet. So far, it has received 44 F-35A fighter jets from the US.
The F-35A is the conventional take-off and landing variant of the F-35 that requires a traditional runway. The induction of the F-35A brings Australia a step closer in its drive for military modernization, as the country has already added EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft to its arsenal and is working on acquiring hypersonic weapons.