A Royal Australian Air Force Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet has suffered what appears to be a takeoff mishap at RAAF Amberley on the afternoon of December 8.
The jet, reported as tail number A44-223, was reportedly taking off from Amberley’s Runway 33 with other aircraft when it was seen by observers to rapidly decelerate and the two crew members ejected.
Television footage shows the ejected crew’s parachutes landing near the cross runway, and the jet rolling to a halt on the grass about 300m off the eastern side of the main runway and 60m north of the cross runway, possibly with its nosewheel in a drain. Photos show scorch marks on the forward fuselage, possibly from the ejection seats’ rocket exhaust.
In a statement to media, an ADF spokesman confirmed the incident. “Defence can confirm that an incident involving a Air Force aircraft has occurred at RAAF Base Amberley,” the statement reads. “The aircrew of that aircraft are safe and no other personnel were involved in the incident.
“Defence will provide more information once the immediate actions associated with the incident are completed. The cause of the incident is not known at this time and will be subject to investigation.”
Chief of Air Force AIRMSHL Mel Hupfeld told media on the morning of December 9 that the RAAF’s fleet of Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers had “ceased flying operations” pending initial investigations, and that an investigation team would arrive at Amberley that morning.
The RAAF has 24 F/A-18Fs in service with 1SQN at Amberley. The aircraft entered service in 2010, and is due to be withdrawn from service from 2030.
An RAAF EA-18G Growler – which shares the airframe and GE F414 engines with the Super Hornet – was severely damaged by an engine explosion and fire at Nellis AFB in January 2018, and was subsequently written off. There is no suggestion that the Super Hornet incident is related.
This story will be updated as details are released.