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Video: UK Minister flies on RAAF’s ‘Top Gun’ Super Hornet

written by Adam Thorn | March 25, 2024

The UK’s Defence Secretary aboard one of the two Super Hornets (Capital Aviation YouTube)

The UK’s Defence Secretary hitched a ride on a RAAF Super Hornet to fly between Canberra and Adelaide on Thursday.

The ABC revealed Grant Shapps undertook “security briefings” before being cleared to travel in the aircraft that was the star of the latest Top Gun movie.

YouTube user Capital Aviation’ captured the moment two Super Hornets – one of which contained Shapps – took off from Fairbairn shortly after 7pm.

Currently, the UK’s Royal Air Force combat fleet consists of F-35bs and Typhoons, but not the Super Hornet.


“The flight was part of a demonstration of an important element of Australia’s defence capability to one of our key defence partners,” Defence confirmed to the ABC.

Shapps visited Australia for the annual Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations, or AUKMIN, summit.

It was the Conservative politician’s first visit to the country since replacing Ben Wallace as British Defence Secretary in August last year.

It follows Australian Aviation reporting in January that the aircraft type would continue to fly for the RAAF until at least 2030 after the federal government agreed to a new $600 million deal to upgrade and sustain the fleet.

The five-year contract with Boeing Defence Australia, which also covers sister aircraft, the Growler, will effectively extend the life of a fleet that had been thought to be retired in 2027.

The introduction of the Super Hornet initially proved hugely controversial after it was declared a stopgap between the retirement of the F-111 and the delayed arrival of its true successor, the fifth-generation F-35.

However, the fighter has proved to be hugely popular globally, even starring in the last Top Gun movie, Maverick, which grossed $1.5 billion and was credited with reintroducing the cinema experience following COVID.

Today, Australia has 24 Super Hornets that boast more powerful engines, bigger fuel capacity and the ability to carry more modern weapons than its predecessor, alongside 12 Growlers.

The Growler is a variant of the Super Hornet but differs in several key areas. In place of the nose-mounted gun, it carries two ALQ-218 tactical jamming receivers (TJR) pods on its wingtips and up to five ALQ-99 jammers on centre-line and wing stations.

This technology allows it to both shutdown enemy defences if it senses they’re tracking it or proactively jam them anyway using its radar. It can even detect specific frequencies and comms devices by locating their emitters.

The fleet is operated by No. 6 Squadron and based at RAAF Base Amberley. The first only arrived in 2017, and the RAAF is the only air force outside the US to own any.

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