Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) looks set to overhaul at least two, and as many as eight F/A-18D Hornets belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).
Speaking at the Singapore 2020 Airshow last week, an RMAF source indicated that two Hornets would arrive at Williamtown in mid-April. They will be supported on their journey by an Airbus A400M transport aircraft, which also has air to air refuelling (AAR) capabilities.
ADM understands the two Hornets will each undergo 9I servicing activities with BDA at their Williamtown facility, which is a regular scheduled maintenance interval conducted every 10 years. If the deal goes ahead as currently planned, it will be the first time that BDA’s Classic Hornet support organisation has performed major overhaul activities for a foreign customer.
BDA declined to comment on the report, but the news would no doubt be welcome for both the company and the Hunter region as the Classic Hornet is now being retired from RAAF service in favour of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. ADM also understands BDA’s existing contract with Defence will end in December 2021.
“It would be premature for Boeing to comment,” the spokesperson said. “But we stand ready to support our regional customers.”
A Defence spokesperson added, “Malaysia is a valued strategic partner of Australia, and a close relationship exists between the Australian and Malaysian Defence Forces. Defence is aware that the Royal Malaysian Air Force is exploring the potential servicing of their F/A-18D Hornet aircraft in Australia [and] is very supportive of Australian Defence industry efforts to export products and services and undertake work in Australia to support our international partners, [but] it is premature for Defence to comment further at this stage.”
Malaysia ordered eight twin-seat F/A-18Ds in December 1993 and, after being initially used in the US to support training, the aircraft were delivered in 1997. They are operated by the RMAF’s No.18 Sqn (18 Skn) at Butterworth in Penang.
In-country support is provided by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) - initially McDonnell Douglas, before it was merged with Boeing in August 1997. Boeing continues to support Malaysia’s Hornet fleet at Butterworth, including the completion of a major fleet upgrade in 2017.
RMAF Hornets celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2017 and have previously deployed to Australia (in 2008 and 2018) to participate in the RAAF’s ‘Pitch Black’ air combat exercise.