Nine F/A-18 Super Hornets belonging to the RAAF’s 1 Squadron have made their debut at Exercise Pitch Black over the Northern Territory.
The Amberley-based fighters are among 94 aircraft from six nations taking part in the bi-annual exercise, which runs through ro August 17.
Wing Commander Murray Jones, the squadron’s CO, said the Super Hornets represent a substantial increase in capability over its now retired F-111 fighters.
“For the first time, No. 1 Squadron has come to Exercise Pitch Black with a true multirole capability,” WGCDR Jones said. “Unlike the F-111 previously operated by No. 1 Squadron, the Super Hornet can fly missions which combine air-to-air against enemy fighters and air-to-surface strike against ground targets.”
Equipped with advanced electronics systems such as the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the Super Hornet is able to provide a continuous picture of the battlespace, whereas older mechanically-steered radars would ‘sweep’ a radar beam over the same area.
“Missions at Pitch Black can involve 60 to 80 aircraft, so it’s critical we have an uninterrupted view of what is happening in the battle space,” WGCDR Jones said.
“The coverage of the AESA radar, combined with an excellent datalink system, means that the pilot and weapons system officer can have constant situational awareness of what is happening all around them, and can conduct near simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks when required.”
WGCDR Jones said the Super Hornets situational awareness was further aided by its ability to network with Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft, which can provide a continuous radar feed to other aircraft.
“With the information shared from the Wedgetail, it is almost as if they are an extension of our airplane,” he said.
Australia took delivery of the final four of its 24 Super Hornets last October. The RAAF expects to declare full operational capability for the jets in December.