RAAF bids farewell to the Classic Hornet

After over three and a half decades of service, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has farewelled the F/A-18A/B Hornet via an end of era event hosted on November 29.

Taking place at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales, Australia, the farewell event saw high ranking personnel including, Australia’s Minister for Defence, Peter Dutton and Chief of Air Force, AM Mel Hupfeld, attend the event to formally see off the long serving platform. 

Group Captain Jason Easthope returns from his display at the Classic Hornet end of an era celebration at RAAF Williamtown, New South Wales. Royal Australian Air Force

A solo Hornet flying display took place over Williamtown during the event to thank the local community for supporting Hornet operations throughout its service with the RAAF. This display came after the Hornets final public appearance at the Wings over Illawarra airshow on November 28.

Arriving into service in June 1984 from St. Louis, Missouri, US, the first two F/A-18 Hornets touched down in Australia via a USAF C-5 galaxy. Shortly followed by the next two which arrived after a non-stop record breaking trans-pacific ferry flight of 15hrs in May 1985.

Since its arrival, the Hornet has flown nearly a total of 408,000 flying hours and flew with aviators at Nos. 3, 75 and 77 Squadron, and No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit of the RAAF.

Chief of Staff Air Combat Group, Gp Capt Jason Easthope said: “The Hornet was a capable aircraft that served the Air Force with distinction for the last 20 years, the Hornets have served on multiple operations overseas and at home, including our contribution to strike missions on Operations Falconer and Okra – this was significant as Australia had not dropped bombs in combat since the Vietnam War.”

F/A-18A A21-002 display at the Classic Hornet end of an era celebration at RAAF Williamtown, New South Wales. Royal Australian Air Force

Both the F/A-18A (single seat) and F/A-18B (twin seat) Hornets have clearly been a key asset in Australia’s air combat capability for both air-to-air and air-to-ground domains. The Hornet has provided air power in theatres of engagement to both Australia and coalition forces during multiple operations such as, Operation Slipper in Afghanistan, as well as Op Falconer and Okra in Iraq.

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

The end of F/A-18A/B operations for No. 75 Squadron and the RAAF, marks the start of the transition to fifth generation air power for Australia, as it currently takes on deliveries of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II and continues to train its aircrew and supporting personnel on the new fighter.