Canada has taken delivery of the first two of up to 25 F/A-18A/B classic Hornets from the RAAF.
The two aircraft, RAAF tail numbers A21-53 and A21-55, were delivered to Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in Alberta after completing a deployment to Exercise Red Flag 19-1 in Nevada on February 16. The sale, which was finalised in December, will see Canada will take 18 RAAF Hornets as interim fighters to complement their fleet of similarly configured CF-18s, and a further seven jets to be used as spares and test articles.
“Australia and Canada have a longstanding defence relationship and this sale is an excellent example of our mutual commitment towards supporting our respective defence capabilities,” Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said in a statement. “These jets have served Australia very well and will now continue to make a positive contribution to the air combat capability of one of our closest allies.”
The delivery of the aircraft marks the beginning of the RAAF’s classic Hornet drawdown, with the first F-35As now in country, another eight scheduled to be delivered this year, and an initial operational capability planned for the end of 2020.
“The interim fighter fleet is key to ensuring the Royal Canadian Air Force can continue to fulfil their missions and ensure the safety of Canadians and Canada,” Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement on February 17.
“We are familiar with these aircraft and are confident that they can provide the additional support our current fleet requires. They were flown in yesterday by the Royal Australian Air Force and I look forward to seeing them fly again soon in our Canadian colours.”
The two Hornets handed over by the RAAF’s Commander Air Combat Group, AIRCDRE Mike Kitcher, and Commanding Officer 77SQN, WGCDR Jason Easthorpe. The aircraft were part of the last batch manufactured for the RAAF at Avalon near Melbourne in 1989 and delivered in early 1990.
The RAAF took delivery of 57 single-seat F/A-18As and 18 two-seat F/A-18Bs between 1985 and 1990. All but the first two F/A-18Bs were assembled at Avalon, initially from knock-down kits, but with gradually increasing amount of locally manufactured components as production progressed.
A video of the handover event can be viewed here.