The final four aircraft of an order of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets for the RAAF arrived at their Amberley home base west of Brisbane on Friday.
The four aircraft completed the final leg of their trans-Pacific delivery flight, which originated at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California on October 13. The aircraft were supported by a USAF KC-10 tanker for the journey, and stopped en route at Hickam AFB in Hawaii, Andersen AFB on Guam, and RAAF Base Townsville. For the final leg from Townsville to Amberley, Super Hornet A41-222 was piloted by Chief of Air Force AIRMSHL Geoff Brown, while A41-224 was piloted all the way from the US by the outgoing Officer Commanding 82 Wing, GPCAPT Steve Roberton, who was previously head of the Air Combat Transition office (ACTO) which managed the Super Hornet project from inception.
Before the four ship landed at Amberley, 16 other Super Hornets were launched to fly out and meet the final aircraft and escort them in, with the 20 aircraft performing a flypast of the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and Ipswich.
They were welcomed to Amberley by Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space & Security Dennis Muilenberg, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, and other VIPs and guests.
“Boeing made a commitment to the Royal Australian Air Force, and to the citizens and government of Australia, promising that these advanced Super Hornets would be ready to join the RAAF fleet on time and on budget,” said Muilenburg. “The men and women of Boeing are incredibly proud to have delivered on that promise.”
Minister Clare said the Super Hornet would maintain Australia’s air combat capability until the arrival of the F-35 JSF later this decade. “The Super Hornet gives us the fire power we need to protect Australian skies until the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter later this decade. Today we know that until that day comes we are in good hands.”
Clare also gave credit for the acquisition to former coalition Defence Minister Brendan Nelson. “I also pay credit to the former Minister for Defence Brendan Nelson who made the decision to buy these planes, when the success of today was not so easy to see,” he said. “The Super Hornets would not be in Australia if not for the decision that he made four-and-a-half years ago.”
Defence Minister Stephen Smith has not ruled out a further purchase of additional Super Hornets, but will wait until the tabling of the government’s Force Posture Review early next year, as well as various schedule and budgetry reviews into the JSF program currenty underway in the US.