Farewell to ‘Classic’ era for air combat capability

Department of Defence

After more than 30 years of dedicated service to the Royal Australian Air Force, Australia’s fleet of F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets has been farewelled, to make way for the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighter.

The remaining few active Classic Hornets-that have been employed in the defence of our nation since 1985-were farewelled today by Minister for Defence, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, AO, DSC, Air Force aviators and industry partners at a ceremony today at RAAF Base Williamtown.

The aircraft were from No. 75 Squadron, based at RAAF Base Tindal, near Katherine in the Northern Territory; the last Classic Hornet squadron to changeover to the F-35A.

Air Marshal Hupfeld, an F/A-18A/B pilot and Fighter Combat Instructor, praised the extraordinary capability the Classic Hornets have provided to Australia’s air power, and the contribution they have made in so many theatres of engagement.

“It is quite fitting that in Air Force’s Centenary year we say goodbye to the Classic Hornet, a fighter jet that has been an integral part of Australia’s defence capability for more than three decades,” he said.

“As the time of the Classic Hornet draws to a close after nearly 408,000 total flying hours, it’s time to for the transition to the advanced lethality, survivability, and supportability delivered by the F-35A Lightning II

Air Marshal Hupfeld also noted that the Classic Hornet had been a special aircraft for Air Force, and an important piece of Australian aviation history.

“The Hornet’s first operational deployment was in November 2001 to May 2002 under Operation Slipper, following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

“The Australian Government agreed to deploy F/A-18A/Bs to protect the major United States Air Force air base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, which was being used to stage operations in Afghanistan Air Marshal Hupfeld said.

“In February 2003, it was my privilege and an honour to personally command the contingent of 14 Hornets and personnel from No. 75 Squadron that deployed to Iraq under Operation Falconer as part of Australia’s contribution to the war on terror.

“This was the first operational combat deployment of Australian fighters since the Korean War, and our aviators and aircraft performed above expectations.”

Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, AM, CSC, also an experienced F/A-18A/B pilot, reflected on the Classic Hornet’s most recent operational employment, and the future of Australia’s air combat capability.

“In 2014 to 2018, F/A-18A/B Hornet squadrons were deployed on Operation Okra as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh.

“Once again performing above expectations, on Okra the Classic Hornets flew 1937 missions, accumulating 14,780 flying hours, and delivering approximately 1,600 munitions,” Air Vice-Marshal Iervasi said.

“While I’m sad to see this incredible aircraft end its role as a sentinel of Australian skies, it’s an exciting time for Air Force as we enter our second century with the F-35A delivering combat air power as part of a networked joint force, to assure the ADF’s ability to deter or defeat threats to Australia’s interests.”

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