End of an era: Australia retires its last F/A-18 Hornets this week

Gastón Dubois

F/A-18 Hornet RAAF for Ucraine

After 36 years, the Royal Australian Air Force is retiring the last F/A-18 Hornet A/Bs from active service, to be replaced by F-35A Lightning IIs.

The farewell ceremony took place today at Williamtown Air Force Base and was attended by the Minister for Defense, the Honorable Peter Dutton, RAAF Chief Mel Hupfeld and other senior Air Force officials.

F/A-18 Hornet RAAF
Photo: RAAF

The first two F/A-18A/B Hornets arrived in Australia on June 6, 1984, partially disassembled inside a C-5 Galaxy from the U.S. Over the next three decades, 71 Hornets contributed to multiple operations and exercises thanks to the dedication of all airmen from No. 3, 75 and 77 Squadrons, and No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit.

The F/A-18A (single-seat) and F/A-18B (two-seat) Hornets have been an integral part of Australia’s air combat capability for more than a third of the RAAF’s 100-year history, capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

Air Combat Group Chief of Staff, Group Captain Jason Easthope, said during the ceremony that the Hornet was a capable aircraft that served the Air Force with distinction.

Photo: RAAF

“Over the past 20 years, Hornets have served in multiple operations overseas and at home, including our contribution to strike missions in Operations Falconer and Okra, which was significant because Australia had not dropped bombs in combat since the Vietnam War,” Group Captain Easthope said.

“In Operation Okra, F/A-18A/B Hornet squadrons flew 1937 missions and more than 14,780 flight hours, delivering approximately 1,600 munitions.”

The end of Hornet operations for No. 75 Squadron marks the beginning of a new chapter as the Australian Air Force transitions to the F-35A Lightning II.

However, these Hornets will continue to fly for several more years, as 25 units were purchased by the Royal Canadian Air Force, in order to buy time until a final decision is made on the replacement program for its own CF-18s (competition from which the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was eliminated).

And Air USA, a private company that provides aggressor training services to various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, previously negotiated with the Australian Government to keep the remaining Hornets.

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