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RAAF Super Hornets make Red Flag debut

written by australianaviation.com.au | January 20, 2016
An aviation technician completes the final checks on the F/A-18F Super Hornet prior to taxing for the planned mission during exercise Black Dagger. Mid Caption: Exercise Black Dagger is being held over the period of 11-23 April 2012 and is the live fire component of the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Course, conducted by Number 4 Squadron from RAAF Base Williamtown NSW. The aim of the JTAC course is to graduate selected Australian Defence Force (ADF) personal in the planning, briefing, controlling and reporting of Close Air Support (CAS) on the battlefield for ADF and major coalition partners. The Live Fire Exercise (LFX) is taking place at Townsville Field Training area utilising F/A-18F Super Hornets from Number 1 squadron, RAAF Base Amberley QLD.
File image of a RAAF Super Hornet. (Defence)

The RAAF is sending the F/A-18F Super Hornet to Exercise Red Flag for the first time, part of a deployment of 14 aircraft and 410 personnel to the US Air Force-run air combat simulation exercise.

Six 1 Squadron Super Hornets, six 75 Squadron F/A-18A ‘classic’ Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail and an AP-3C Orion have all deployed to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada for Exercise Red Flag 16-1, which began on January 19 and runs through until February 13.

In all 410 Australian personnel are taking part in Red Flag, including an air battle management contingent from 41 Wing, in one of the RAAF’s largest overseas exercise deployments in recent memory.

Led by OC 81 Wing GPCAPT Phil Gordon, the deployment is the RAAF’s first major exercise of 2016 and will comprise an intense two-week campaign of day and night missions against real target sets and adversary representative fighters, and high-fidelity electronic and air defence systems over the Nevada Test & Training Range.

“Day and night-time missions at Red Flag will require large numbers of aircraft to work together to complete the assigned mission across a variety of roles. The threats they face range from aggressor F-15 and F-16 fighters and simulated surface to air missile engagements, through to electronic warfare and cyberspace attacks,” GPCAPT Gordon said in a statement.

“It provides the ultimate environment in which our Air Force personnel can showcase their extraordinary abilities in a deployed scenario.”

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Comments (11)

  • Paul


    I am wondering if the RAAF Growlers are going to participate – and on which team?

  • Daryl


    Great news .That is a big commitment from the RAAF.I have a couple of fishing mates who took their B-1’s to Red Flag.Very intensive war games.

  • Gary


    Once we have them cleared for ops we would no doubt include them in future RFs.

  • PAUL


    First class…

  • mick181


    Paul we wont have the Growlers till next year they are still under construction.

  • Raymond


    Paul – exactly, they’re currently in the testing and training phase and not yet in service, so what makes you think that they’d be sent to an exercise now?

  • Andrew64


    With no tankers accompanying them, how do they cross the Pacific?

  • John N



    Whilst yes there are RAAF Growler crews training in the USA and a couple of airframes have come off the Boeing production line, I can’t see that we would see any of those airframes, with RAAF crews, being used in Red Flag for a number of years yet, we are no where near IOC, let alone FOC with that capability, isn’t going to happen.

    That’s not to say that if ‘operational’ USN Growlers were going to participate, then yes, there is the possibility that some of those aircraft could potentially have some RAAF crew members attached to them.

    As for an RAAF contingent of EA-18G’s, well I would think that’s probably not going to happen till at least somewhere around 2020.


    John N

  • John N



    Just because there are no KC-30A’s involved in the Red Flag exercise itself, doesn’t mean that tankers weren’t used to get the Classic and Super Hornets across the Pacific, it will most likely be an escort ‘to and from’ exercise for the tanker fleet, and possibly US tanker support if necessary too.

    I’d also imagine that apart from tanker support for the Classic and Super Hornets across the Pacific, there was probably also support provided by the transport Squadrons (C-17A and C-130J) to deliver the extra personnel, spares and support equipment too, possibly the extra personnel travelled in relative comfort in the KC-30A aircraft for example.


    John N

  • Jason


    Andrew64 – RAAF MRTT and USAF KC-10 tankers were used to support the crossing.

    RAAF Growlers won’t participate in a high-intensity exercise such as Red Flag until well after IOC and likely close to or after FOC. As JohnN said, this likely wont happen until the mid 2020s.

    There are a couple of RAAF Growler crews attached to USN squadrons and these crews have already participated in exercises such as Cope North etc.

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