In about 14 hours the first 5 of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets for the Royal Australian Air Force will touch down for the first time on Australian soil at Amberley Air Force Base, southwest of Brisbane in Queensland.
Wings Down Under will be at the base for the event. You can follow me on Twitter for updates during the event. And of course there will be photos and videos afterwards.
But first, let’s review what it’s taken to have the Super Hornets arrive.
May 2007–Dept of Defence signs a contract to acquire 24 F/A-18Fs. Australia becomes the first export customer. Cost will be A$2.9b while total investment is $6b over 10 years. The Super Hornets will replace the RAAF’s ageing General Dynamics F-111 fleet, and provide a stopgap ahead of the delivery of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The order is immediately controversial. Critics argue the F-111s could stay in the fleet until F-35s arrive, making the Super Hornets unnecessary.
CANCEL THE ORDER?
January 2008–The contract, signed under the John Howard government, is thrown up in the air when the newly elected Labor government under Kevin Rudd comes to power. The government announces it will launch a “thorough review”.
NO, STILL GOOD
March 2008–The government announces it will proceed with the Super Hornet purchase unchanged. At this point, Boeing has cut metal for the first jet.
MORE SUPER HORNETS?
February 2009–Canberra announces it will have 12 of its 24 F/A-18Fs re-wired to enable Australia to upgrade the aircraft to be E/A-18G Growlers. The re-wiring adds A$35m to the contract. Converting all 12 aircraft will add A$300m. This leads some to think Australia will order more Super Hornets.
ROLL OUT, 24 MEANS 24
8 July 2009–Boeing unveils the first F/A-18F for the RAAF.
Photos here and video below:
At the event, as we reported:
Air Marshal Mark Binskin welcomed the first of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force in an 8 July unveiling. However, he also made it clear that no additional orders for the type should ever be necessary.
There will be no “Plan B” if Lockheed encounters further problems with the F-35, he said. “Sorry, Bob, but no,” Binskin said, half-jokingly, as he addressed Bob Gower, Boeing’s vice-president for F/A-18.
22 July 2009–The first Australian Super Hornet makes its maiden sortie, taking off from Lambert International Airport in St Louis, Missouri for a flight that lasts just over 1 hour.
LONGER LIFE, GROWLER UPDATE DELAYED
February 2010–The RAAF says its Super Hornets could remain in its fleet until 2030, longer than originally thought. At the same time, the RAAF says it is not in a rush to convert its 12 F/A-18Fs that are being wired for the E/A-18G Growler electronic-attack configuration.
March 2010–Accompanied by a DC-10 tanker, the first 5 Super Hornets make their way from Naval Air Station Lemoore in California to Amberley. The aircraft make multiple stops, including in Hawaii and New Zealand.
Boeing releases this promotional video:
HOME SWEET HOME
26 March 2010–The five Super Hornets are planned to depart Auckland this morning and fly over the Gold Coast and Brisbane before touching down in the early afternoon at Amberley, their home base. They will be accompanied by F-111s, which they replace.
It’s been a long journey, so if you’re looking for something fast, here’s a video of how to build a RAAF-bound Super Hornet in 3 minutes and 32 seconds.
(Top photo: Boeing)