The Commonwealth has announced that “up to 46” of the RAAF’s 71 F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornets have been sold to a US-based adversary air services training company.
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price announced in a March 5 release that the aircraft will be “prepared” by an industry team based in the NSW Hunter region where the Hornet fleet’s home base of RAAF Williamtown is located, and have been sold to Air USA.
“The work to prepare these aircraft and components for sale will provide 24 direct industry jobs while Air Force transitions from the classic Hornet to the F-35,” she said. “This highlights the strong performance of the region’s defence industry in servicing and maintaining the classic Hornets over the past 30 years.”
Air USA is based in Illinois, and provides tactical aircraft services to US services and agencies, contractors, and foreign governments. The company says, “Our high performance aircraft and support team are capable of deploying and sustaining high paced operations for extended periods of time in order to meet our customers training needs. We provide our customers a turnkey operation as we provide aircraft, pilots, JTAC, JTAC instructors, maintenance, ordnance and support equipment.”
The company currently flies BAE Hawks, Aero L-59s, Dornier Alpha Jets, and MiG-29s in adversary and tactical aircraft service roles. It says its mission is, “to enhance the military capabilities and combat readiness of our customers by providing advanced electronic threat simulation, advanced combat air presentations, and air to ground ordnance delivery for JTAC, TACP, FAC (A) and JFO training.”
This is a potentially great result for the RAAF Hornet fleet, which some had feared would end up in landfill like much of the RAAF’s former F-111C/G fleet a decade earlier.
But because Canada has committed to acquire 25 former RAAF Hornets, including 18 for flight operations, this means if Air USA takes all 46 remaining Hornets, none will be available for museums such as the Australian War Memorial, the RAAF Museum, and Fighter World.
Just how the aircraft will be “prepared” is also unknown, and ADBR has sought clarification on this and the museum issue from Defence.