• A 38 Squadron King Air at Exercise Pitch Black.
Nigel Pittaway
    A 38 Squadron King Air at Exercise Pitch Black. Nigel Pittaway

The RAAF will disband one of its two King Air squadrons in December as part of its fleet consolidation plan.

Townsville-based 38 Squadron will formally disband on December 14 after 75 years of continuous service. The squadron has flown the King Air 350 since 2009, following the retirement of the Caribou.

Four of the units’ eight King Airs have already been transferred to 32 Sqn at East Sale and the remainder will follow after the official ceremony in December. The event will leave Townsville without an active RAAF flying squadron.

However, the Army continues to have a large presence at the base, represented by the CH-47F Chinooks and MRH-90 Taipan helicopters of 5th Aviation Regiment.

A Defence spokesperson said that from 2019, 32 Sqn will operate a fleet of 12 King Air 350s, all of which will be equipped with the latest Rockwell Collins Proline 21 avionics suite. Of these 12 aircraft, eight will be the ex-38 Sqn examples and the balance are new aircraft, which are being leased from Hawker Pacific. The four new King Airs are currently being reconfigured by Hawker Pacific prior to entering service.

The eight aircraft previously operated by 32 Sqn all had the earlier Proline 2 flight deck and the fleet will therefore standardise on the latest configuration. Four of the earlier aircraft have already been returned to Hawker Pacific and sold to a new owner in the US.

“No. 32 Squadron will continue to conduct its existing roles in support of No.1 Flying Training School (training of Mission Aircrew and Aviation Warfare Officers), as well as Air Logistics Support,” the spokesperson said.

“The Squadron will also take over the following roles from No. 38 Squadron: Imagery Acquisition, Base Station Relay, and Intelligence Surveillance Targeting Acquisition Reconnaissance (ISTAR).”

Three of the King Airs previously operated by 38 Sqn have recently been modified for the ISTAR role by Hawker Pacific under Air Force Minor Project (AFM) 01037. The three aircraft are now permanently configured for the role and are tasked by the RAAF’s Air Mobility Control Centre on behalf of Army Special Operations Command.

A review of the King Air capability will be undertaken in 2024, according to the spokesperson.

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