The last Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets to undergo deeper maintenance servicing have rolled out of the Boeing Defence Australia facility at RAAF Base Williamtown. This was the 163rd and final deeper maintenance servicing for the RAAF Classic Hornet fleet since 2013.
Deeper maintenance servicing on the Classic Hornet will no longer be required as the capability is progressively replaced by the F-35A Lightning II aircraft. These operations have generated an additional 140,000 flying hours for the Classic Hornets and also contributed A$200 million ($ 138 million) to the Australian economy. Australian Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price, said 150 jobs in the Hunter region had been supported through this important work.
To secure these local Hunter jobs, Boeing will continue to provide logistics, engineering and maintenance support through to the planned withdrawal date of December 2021. Boeing will also assist Defence to prepare retired Classic Hornet aircraft for heritage display within Australia and potential sale to foreign customers. In March, the RAAF Base Williamtown agreed to sell its retired F/A-18 Classic Hornet aircraft to training company Air USA. This continued effort will assist in retaining a highly skilled Hunter region aviation workforce until there is a requirement for F-35A Lightning II sustainment which will also be based at RAAF Base Williamtown. The fleet of 75 Classic Hornet planned withdrawal in December 2021.
The Royal Australian Air Force purchased 57 F/A-18A fighters and 18 F/A-18B two-seat trainers to replace its Dassault Mirage IIIOs. Numerous options were considered for the replacement, notably the F-15A Eagle, the F-16 Falcon, and the then new F/A-18 Hornet. Australia selected the F/A-18 in October 1981. Original differences between the Australian and US Navy’s standard F/A-18 were the removed nose-wheel tie bar for catapult launch (later re-fitted with a dummy version to remove nose wheel shimmy), addition of a high frequency radio, an Australian fatigue data analysis system, an improved video and voice recorder, and the use of instrument landing system/VHF omnidirectional range instead of the carrier landing system.
The first two aircraft were produced in the US, with the remainder assembled in Australia at Government Aircraft Factories. F/A-18 deliveries to the RAAF began on 29 October 1984, and continued until May 1990. Australia had 71 Hornets in service in 2006, after four were lost to crashes. The fleet was upgraded beginning in the late 1990s to extend their service lives to 2015. They were expected to be retired then and replaced by the F-35 Lightning II. Several of the Australian Hornets have had refits applied to extend their service lives until the planned retirement date of 2020. Australia has also purchased 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets, with deliveries beginning in 2010. Australia has sold 25 F/A-18A/Bs to Canada with first two delivered to RCAF in February 2019.