A Melbourne-based company has become the first in Australia to win a lucrative contract to overhaul US F/A-18 Hornets under a new initiative between the two countries, writes Stephen Kuper.
RUAG Australia will undertake maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work of selected components for the fleet under ADAC, a bilateral forum for co-operation between the US and Australian military.
The partnership aims to facilitate closer defence and industry collaboration related to the acquisition, logistics and follow-on support of defence equipment.
RUAG Australia has been supporting the RAAF F/A-18 fleet and other platforms since the early 1980s. The business is an independent supplier of systems and components on behalf of the RAAF and other international air forces, as well as civil aviation, worldwide.
Terry Miles, general manager RUAG Australia, said, “RUAG Australia appreciates the trust that the US Navy has placed in their ability to support their regional activities.
“RUAG’s MRO capabilities and track record of success with the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF), will form the basis of a partnership with the US Navy to support the fleet readiness of the F/A-18 fleet in APAC and other foreign military sales (FMS) customers moving forward.”
Stephan Jezler, senior vice president of aviation international, RUAG MRO International, said, “We are pleased and proud to be recognised as an essential contributor to defence industry capability.
“We are looking forward to applying our technical expertise to other fleets in the APAC region and globally. It confirms our good reputation and our vast experience and know-how on the life cycle support of F/A-18 fleets.”
In another example of co-operation, Australian Aviation reported earlier this month how the UK is recruiting RAAF pilots to fly its armed MQ-9 Reaper fleet over Syria and Iraq because of a “challenging” shortage of its own crew.
Though the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has yet to confirm numbers of Australians involved with the program, an addendum to the annual report of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority revealed that a pilot shortage issue had been solved in part through both the use of “Royal Australian Air Force exchange officers, and a pathway to using contractors to relieve Royal Air Force personnel at the deployed location”.
Pilot shortages have long plagued the program, with the UK MoD’s permanent secretary admitting in January that training and retaining drone crews “has historically proved challenging”.