An Antonov An-124 arrived in Brisbane last week to collect classic F/A-18A Hornets from Williamtown for delivery to Canada.
The Antonov An-124-100M, UR-82008 msn 19530501006, departed Honolulu on 13 November at 11:50pm as flight ADB382F and landed in Brisbane the next morning at 5:49am.
On 26 November, it flew to Newcastle, arriving at 9:17am before departing at 1:18pm the same day to return to Brisbane. On 27 November, UR-82008 departed Brisbane at 9:21am, bound for Honolulu as flight ADB3582, before continuing on to Montreal an hour and a half after landing.
UR-82008 on the way back in from Williamtown this afternoon! ^Kevin
Last year, Australian Aviation reported how Canada had purchased 18 RAAF Hornets to bolster its air force’s own CF-18 Hornet flying ranks, with an additional seven aircraft acquired for spares and testing.
Local reports said the acquisition cost of the aircraft was C$90 million ($95 million), while a total of C$500m ($525 million) had been budgeted for the acquisition which will also include spares and the fitting of unspecified “Canadian-specific equipment” and upgrades.
Canada’s CF-18s are of a similar configuration to those of the RAAF, having undergone an extensive upgrade in the late 1990s and early 2000s to a configuration similar to that of Australia’s multi-phased AIR 5375 Hornet Upgrade Program (HUG). Canadian CF-18s are fitted with a spotlight on the forward port fuselage, and there are minor differences in the weapons carried and in operational flight program software.
Canada’s Trudeau Liberal government froze the country’s planned acquisition of about 90 F-35As when it came to power in late 2014, and instead looked to acquire 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an interim capability while it conducted a competitive evaluation for a permanent fighter replacement. Canada remains a JSF partner nation pending the outcome of the evaluation.
But the Super Hornet acquisition was cancelled in 2017 in response to a complaint by Boeing to the US Commerce Department over what it said were unfair Canadian government subsidies of commercial manufacturer Bombardier’s new C Series airliner (now the Airbus A220). Boeing’s complaint was subsequently dismissed by the US federal trade tribunal in early 2018, while the C Series line was sold to Airbus.
In October 2020, Australian Aviation also reported that two classic F/A-18A Hornets would be displayed at the Australian War Memorial from December.
The RAAF Classic Hornet fleet is being progressively retired as 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters are introduced into service.
The initial order of 75 Hornets was placed in November 1981. The order consisted of 57 single-seat F/A-18As and 18 two-seat F/A-18Bs. The Hornet provided the RAAF with a giant leap in technology at the time.
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price called the fighter a “special aircraft” for the RAAF.
“It employed the first Australian weapon on Operation Falconer in 2003, and was also deployed on Operation Okra in 2016-2017,” Minister Price said.
“It is very fitting that it will now spend its next life on permanent display at the Australian War Memorial. This will be a fantastic opportunity for generations of Australians to view and appreciate [an] example of Australian Air Force capability.”
Based at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, the F/A-18A/B Hornets have been operated by:
- Number 3 Squadron, RAAF Base Williamtown;
- Number 75 Squadron, RAAF Base Tindal;
- Number 77 Squadron, RAAF Base Williamtown; and
- Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit, RAAF Base Williamtown for pilot training.