The RAAF is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighters this week, marking a decade since the arrival of the first five aircraft at RAAF Amberley on March 26, 2010.
The Commonwealth ordered 24 Super Hornets in March 2007 under Project Air 5349, as a ‘bridging strategy’ between the retirement of the RAAF’s ageing F-111C fleet and the introduction of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.
The Australian Super Hornets were built to the current US Navy Block II configuration and introduced new technologies and capabilities to the RAAF which included the Raytheon APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and AIM-9X within visual range missile.
Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was declared in December 2010, coinciding with the retirement of the F-111C and delivery of the final four Super Hornets followed in October 2011.
In September 2014, six Super Hornets were deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Okra and by the time they were replaced by a rotation of F/A-18A ‘Classic’ Hornets in March 2015, the newer aircraft had flown 418 sorties and 3,361 combat hours and had released 278 precision guided munitions. This was achieved with a mission success rate of 97 per cent and less than two years after Final Operational Capability (FOC).
Initially operated by Nos. 1 & 6 Squadrons, the subsequent purchase of the Boeing EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack aircraft resulted in all RAAF Super Hornets being consolidated within 1 Sqn in November 2016 and a further rotation to the Middle East occurred in May 2017.
Today all 24 aircraft are still operational, flown by 1 Sqn and supported by an Air Force/Industry partnership under the Air Combat Electronic Attack Sustainment Program (ACEASP), which also supports the Growler fleet. The team consists of Boeing Defence Australia (which replaced Boeing in July 2016) as the prime contractor, together with sub-contractors Raytheon Australia, Northrop Grumman Australia, Airspeed, Pacific Aerospace Consulting and Martin Baker Australia.
In March, the ACEASP was awarded a four-year, $280 million, sustainment contract extension until 2025. Life of type for the Super Hornet is currently 2030 for the Super Hornet and 2035 for the Growler.
“We have 277 people working to support Super Hornet at Amberley, together with a range pf Australian companies,” Chris Gray, BDA’s ACESP manager, said. “The way in which we are providing our sustainment services has moved to a relational arrangement with the Commonwealth, rather than a transactional relationship, under the First Principles guidance. This has really enabled Boeing to assume responsibility as the platform steward and do what’s best for the weapons system, using all the resources that Boeing brings as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).”
An in-depth look at the decade of Super Hornet operations in Australia will appear in the May issue of ADM.