The end of RAAF F/A-18A/B classic Hornet operations came another step closer on July 8 with the completion of the final deep maintenance service of the type by Boeing Defence Australia.
Awarded to Boeing in 2013, the Classic Hornet Sustainment Support contract has seen 163 deep services performed on the RAAF’s 71 remaining F/A-18A/Bs. The work has comprised some 815,000 hours of work performing detailed inspections, overhauls, and repairs
“These operations have generated an additional 140,000 flying hours for the classic Hornets and also contributed $200 million to the Australian economy,” Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said in a statement. “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,” she added. “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.”
In a company statement, Boeing’s F/A-18 classic Hornet Program Manager, Daniel Reid said, “Our deeper maintenance milestone is a testament to the integrated and trusted partnership between Boeing and the Commonwealth, as platform stewards, to provide vital sustainment support services to the RAAF classic Hornet fleet. Completion of our 163rd deeper maintenance is a momentous achievement for the team.”
The F/A-18A/B entered service with the RAAF in 1985. Two of the RAAF’s four Hornet squadrons – 3SQN and 2OCU at RAAF Williamtown – have already traded their jets for new F-35A Lightning II fighters, while Williamtown’s 77SQN is scheduled to transition to the F-35A at the end of 2020. The final Hornet squadron, RAAF Tindal-based 75SQN will follow at the end of 2021.
Up to 25 of the RAAF classic Hornets have been sold to the Royal Canadian Air Force to bolster Canada’s classic Hornet ranks in lieu of a replacement entering service from the late 2020s, while another 35 aircraft have been earmarked for US-based Air USA to be used for adversary air services for the US military and allied forces. The remaining 11 jets have been reserved for display in museums in Australia.