by Hannah Dowling 

The Royal Australian Air Force has celebrated the retirement of its fleet of single-seat F/A-18A and two-seat F/A-18B Classic Hornets, after over 35 years of service to Australia.

Since entering into service with the RAAF in 1986, Air Force has welcomed 75 Classic Hornets, operated by Number 75 Squadron at RAAF Base Tindal, and Number 3 and 77 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown.

In its over three decades of service, the Classic Hornet multirole fighter fleet has completed more than 400,000 flight hours across thousands of missions.

To honour the occasion, the RAAF hosted a ceremony on Monday at RAAF Base Williamtown, attended by Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and nearly 500 people.

“Today, after taking to the sky for more than 30 years, after serving our nation with great distinction for more than three decades, after being an icon of Australia’s leading-edge air combat capability for a third of a century, we say farewell to the Classic Hornet – to the formidable F/A- 18,” said Minister Dutton.

The entry of the Hornet into the RAAF fleet, at the time, marked one of the biggest leaps in technology RAAF had seen.

The first two fighters were delivered nonstop from California to Williamtown in May 1985, after a 15-hour flight spanning over 12,000 kilometres. Each Hornet was refuelled 13 times throughout the flight by accompanying US Air Force tankers.

In the 36 years since then, the fleet has been deployed on a number of key military operations, most notably the NATO-led mission following the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US.

Missions included the safeguarding of the US airbase in Diego Garcia from where operations in Afghanistan were launched, and its deployment in Iraq, where it attacked enemy targets and provided air cover for the SAS.

While the Classic Hornet will no longer take to our skies, the fighter and attack aircraft will remain in the memories of those who flew and maintained it.


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